The crimes of stalking and harassment often go hand-in-hand. It is common for defendants to be charged with both crimes after being arrested. Even though these offenses are typically considered together, a few key differences must be understood if you are to mount an effective defense in the courtroom. Our Utah stalking and harassment defense attorneys can help you fight these charges and protect your rights.
If you have been charged with or accused of stalking or harassment, contact an attorney for help as soon as you can. Darwin Overson, of Overson & Bugden, is an experienced Utah defense attorney who can advocate for your rights and protection in a court of law. Call (801) 758-2287 to schedule a free and confidential legal consultation today.
Stalking Charges Under Utah Criminal Law
Stalking is a somewhat broad criminal offense because it is not defined as any one specific act. Instead, stalking could be any action by a defendant intended to cause the alleged victim fear for their own safety, fear for the safety of another, or otherwise suffer emotional distress. Stalking may also be charged when a defendant knowingly violates a stalking injunction.
Stalking must be intentional. The defendant’s actions that caused the alleged victim’s emotional distress must have been deliberate and not accidental. Under the Utah Criminal Code, the defendant may not defend themselves by claiming they were not made aware that their actions were unwelcomed by the alleged victim. Similarly, it is not a defense that the defendant did not intend to cause the alleged victim emotional distress.
If you face stalking charges, please talk to our Utah stalking and harassment defense attorney for help.
Harassment Charges Under Utah Law
Harassment sounds very much like stalking in that they have a similar effect on the alleged victim. Harassment, much like stalking, requires actions by the defendant intended to frighten or harass the alleged victim. However, the difference is that harassment involves only threats rather than actual dangerous actions. Also, the threats must be written or recorded and include threats to commit any violent felony.
Generally, harassment does not need to occur in person. With advancements in technology and online communications, harassment could come from emails, phone calls, text messages, or even social media posts. Once harassment evolves to be in-person, a defendant may be facing stalking charges in addition to harassment charges.
Harassment also requires threats to commit violent felonies. Things like simple name-calling or similar communications may not qualify as harassment. Speak with our Utah stalking and harassment lawyers about your charges today.
Penalties for Stalking and Harassment in Utah
Stalking and harassment are often charged together, but each charge may carry very different penalties. Stalking tends to be the more serious charge as it involves more direct interaction with the alleged victim. It is also more unpredictable as it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Harassment is more straightforward, but its consequences should not be disregarded. Contact our Utah stalking and harassment defense attorneys with any concerns about your case.
As just mentioned, stalking may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the facts of your case. If this is your first time being charged with stalking, or if you violated a civil stalking injunction, you may be charged with a class A misdemeanor. Such a misdemeanor is only one step below a felony and may be punished by up to 364 days in jail.
Stalking can also be charged as a third-degree felony if you have been…
- Previously convicted of stalking in Utah
- Previously convicted of stalking or a similar offense in another state,
- Previously convicted of any felony in Utah, or any offense that would be a felony in Utah, and the alleged victim in your current stalking case was also a victim in your previous case,
- Convicted for violating a permanent criminal stalking injunction, or
- A cohabitant of the victim.
Third-degree felonies carry strict penalties. You can be punished by a term of up to 5 years in prison if you are convicted. Your charges could also be upgraded to a second-degree felony if you…
- Used a dangerous weapon or other force likely to cause death or serious injury,
- Have at least two previous stalking convictions,
- Have at least two previous convictions from other jurisdictions for stalking or similar offense,
- Were convicted at least twice before of second-degree felony stalking as described above, or
- Have at least one previous conviction for violating criminal stalking injunction or were convicted for stalking previously while a cohabitant with the victim.
Because there is no face-to-face confrontation, harassment is usually a lesser charge than stalking. Harassment is charged as a class B misdemeanor. The Utah Criminal Code does not prove any conditions that would cause a harassment charge to be upgraded to a more serious offense. A class B misdemeanor can be punished by a jail term no longer than 6 months. Keep in mind that prolonged or repeated harassment may lead to multiple harassment charges. These charges can quickly add up to a lengthier term of incarceration. Reach out to our Utah stalking and harassment defense lawyer with any questions.
Protective Orders for Stalking and Harassment in Utah
If you are charged with stalking or harassment, you may also be subjected to a protective order issued by the courts. Protective orders are designed to protect alleged victims from their abusers and may be issued before the trial has even begun. They may be temporary and expire upon the completion of your trial, or they may be made permanent.
There are different protective orders for different situations. Some orders are intended for cohabitants, while others are designed for people who do not live together but are in a romantic relationship. The consequences for violating a protective order will be different depending on which court issued the order. A civil or criminal court may impose these orders. If you are charged with stalking and harassment, your order will likely be imposed by a criminal court.
Speak to our Utah stalking and harassment defense lawyers about your order. It is possible to have protective orders lifted if the situation does not call for an order.
Get in Touch with Our Utah Stalking and Harassment Defense Lawyers
If you are charged with harassment or stalking in Utah, you should hire an attorney immediately. Contact our Utah stalking and harassment defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden for help. Call (801) 758-2287 to set up your free legal consultation today.