According to § 741.28 of the Florida Statutes, there are at least ten types of criminal offenses that could constitute an act of domestic violence. One of the listed criminal offenses is stalking. While stalking is not always an act of domestic violence, it involves members of a family or household. The exact language of the statute explains domestic violence as,
Any assault, aggravated assault, battery, aggravated battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, aggravated stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or any criminal offense resulting in physical injury or death of one family or household member by another family or household member.
Definitions are important when it comes to stalking as a domestic violence charge. Most basic to this criminal offense are the definitions of "stalking" and "family or household member."
What constitutes "stalking" in Florida?
According to § 784.048 of the Florida Statutes, anyone who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows, harasses or cyberstalks another person can be charged with stalking. In this context, stalking is a first degree misdemeanor. It is also important to note that Florida law specifies that, in order for a stalking charge to stand, the act must have been a "course of conduct" or a pattern of actions. The pattern of actions must have resulted in a "credible threat" which Florida law defines as either a verbal or nonverbal threat that causes the victim to be in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their family members.
- Harassing can include speech or conduct that is effective in causing a person substantial emotional distress. In most cases, harassment "serves no legitimate purpose."
- Cyberstalking is essentially the same as stalking or harassment, except for the fact that the venue is the internet/online communications.
What constitutes "family or household member" in Florida?
Domestic violence takes place between family members or household members. This includes spouses, ex-spouses, family by blood relation, family by marriage, people who live together or lived together in the past and people who have a child/children together.
What are the penalties for domestic violence stalking?
Domestic violence is a crime that can result in civil and criminal consequences, but domestic violence is more of a category to describe many different criminal offenses within the context of family or those in some kind of close relationship with each other. Therefore, there is no one type of charge and penalties for domestic violence, but rather each type of domestic violence offense will be charged individually.
This means that stalking within the context of domestic violence is typically charged the same as regular stalking. According to the Florida Statutes, stalking can be charged as a first degree misdemeanor or a third degree felony. Simple stalking is a first degree misdemeanor, but aggravated stalking is a felony of the third degree. It is also a third degree felony to commit acts of stalking after a domestic violence injunction has been obtained.
To learn more about stalking as a domestic violence charge or to obtain representation, please contact a Tampa domestic violence lawyer at Taracks & Associates today.