Misguided and unwanted affection can often cause otherwise law abiding individuals to behave in ways that are completely out of character. In the worst of these cases, individuals can be charged with stalking when they are really just trying to express affection but for whatever reason are unable to do so in a socially acceptable way. What one person might view as romantic persistence, another person might view as stalking.
There is a huge difference between what people typically consider "stalking" in common conversation and the legal definition of the term. It is not uncommon to hear someone say of an unwanted suitor; "he keeps stalking me on Facebook" (or Twitter, or text, or whatever medium might apply). This person feels as if they are being stalked because someone for whom they do not have an interest has expressed a persistent interest in them. This sort of conduct may be, and usually is, annoying; but it does not meet the legal definition of "stalking" in Virginia.
To be convicted of stalking in Virginia is defined in Code §18.2-60.3 one must "on more than one occasion engage in conduct directed toward another person with the intent to place, or when he knows or reasonably should know that the conduct places that other person in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury." As you can see, to sustain a conviction for stalking in Virginia, the Commonwealth must prove that an individual was not merely an inept and relentless suitor; the prosecution must demonstrate that the person engaged in conduct intended to place the victim in fear of the enumerated harms
on more than one occasion! This is a very steep burden for the Commonwealth, and they know it. Rest assured though, the Commonwealth prosecutes these charges zealously. And a conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor, carrying up to a year in jail!
For that reason, stalking charges always call for aggressive defense. Romantic persistence is not a crime, even in our modern society where the slightest cry of perceived harassment results in the judicial process being raised in alarm. There is chasm of disconnect between the legal definition of "stalking" and the use of the term in casual conversation that causes these charges to be brought in cases where the elements of the offense simply aren't met. These charges can be beaten!
People sometimes go overboard in matters of the heart. It's tough to accept that someone isn't interested in you, or perhaps has lost interest in you. We've all been there. But at the end of the day, if you or someone you know has been charged with stalking, contact our office right away. Let us defend you against this charge!