What Constitutes Stalking in Utah?

Stalking might seem like a non-serious criminal offense to some. In many cases, stalking does not involve any physical contact between a defendant and victim. Frequently, stalking is completed simply by being in close proximity to a victim. However, stalking can become very serious, and the consequences may be quite costly.

Stalking occurs when a person engages in conduct that causes fear or distress in the victim. Typically, this conduct is intentional and repeated over time. However, the defendant does not have to intend to cause harm as their primary motive, nor does the victim have to inform the defendant of their distress. Stalking can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony and may come with very serious jail or prison sentences.

If you are charged with stalking, you should speak with an attorney about your case right away. Our Salt Lake City stalking defense lawyers can help you fight your charges. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 for a free legal consultation.

What Kind of Behavior is Considered Stalking in Utah?

Stalking is more than just following someone around in secret. In fact, a defendant does not even have to sneak around to be charged with stalking. Stalking can be done openly and still be charged. According to Utah Code § 76-5-106.5, stalking may be charged where a person intentionally or knowingly does something they know (or should know) will cause the alleged victim to fear for their life or safety or suffer emotional distress. Stalking is often a course of conduct, meaning it involves multiple acts rather than one single action by the defendant. However, the acts could occur relatively close together or stretch across a longer period of time, as long as they are connected.

Stalking can also be charged if a defendant is already under a stalking injunction and violates that injunction. The injunction could be civil or criminal and may be temporary or permanent. While stalking might take various forms, it is often committed when one person continuously follows another person around. For example, if a person shows up at your school, work, and home and causes you to fear for your safety, they might be charged with stalking.

However, stalking does not necessarily have to be done in person. With today’s technology, stalking could occur over the internet. Receiving numerous unwanted messages over the phone or online may constitute cyberstalking or harassment.

A person charged with stalking does not necessarily have to have the intent to threaten, intimidate, or distress the alleged victim. It does not matter if the alleged victim did not tell you that your behavior was unwanted, nor does it matter that you did not intend to cause harm or fear.

If you shared a very similar schedule with the victim, showing up at all the same places by mere coincidence – no matter how the victim feels about it –is not considered stalking. Proof of your daily schedule could clear up any stalking allegations pretty quickly. Call our Utah Stalking defense attorneys for assistance.

How Stalking is Punished in Utah

Stalking is charged based on the circumstances surrounding the alleged stalking. The presence of weapons, prior convictions, and criminal history may all influence possible stalking charges. Stalking may be charged as a Class A misdemeanor if you violated a civil stalking injunction or you are a first-time offender.

Third-degree felonies could be imposed if you have a previous stalking conviction. Previous convictions in other jurisdictions of crimes similar to stalking may also lead to an upgrade in charges. You may also be charged with a third-degree felony for stalking if the alleged victim or anyone in their immediate family was previously a victim in a different crime for which you were convicted.

Stalking can be charged as a second-degree felony if you are alleged to have used a dangerous weapon or some other means of deadly force likely to cause serious bodily harm. You could also be charged with a second-degree felony if you have at least two previous stalking convictions in any jurisdiction or you were convicted of at least two other felonies in which the victim or their immediate family were the victims. Stalking will also be upgraded to a second-degree felony if you previously violated a civil stalking injunction or you have been a cohabitant of the alleged victim.

If stalking is charged as a Class A misdemeanor, you may face up to 364 days in jail and fines up to $2,500. Stalking charged as a third-degree felony is more serious, and the penalties will be harsher. You could spend up to 5 years in prison and pay up to $5,000 in fines. Finally, a second-degree felony stalking conviction could land you behind bars for at least 1 year but as long as 15 years. You could also end up paying fines up to $10,000.

Protective Orders in Stalking Cases in Utah

If a protective order is not already in place, one might be imposed against you. When a defendant is convicted of stalking charges, courts will consider a permanent criminal stalking injunction. Such an injunction would limit contact between the defendant and the alleged victim. This includes face-to-face contact as well as electronic or digital communications.

While these orders may be crafted around existing custody arrangements if the parties share children, this is not always done. In many cases, courts impose the permanent criminal stalking injunction and then let family courts figure out custody arrangements. It is not guaranteed that you will be given regular or meaningful visitation with your children under the terms of a stalking injunction.

Our legal team can help you fight the stalking charges against you and thereby prevent any stalking injunction that would keep you from your kids. If we cannot have your charges dropped or dismissed, we can help you challenge any unfair terms in a stalking injunction that would interfere with your ability to see your family. Call our Park City criminal defense attorney for help.

Call Our Utah Stalking Defense Attorneys

If you are currently facing stalking charges, you may be up against the possibility of jail time and a permanent injunction preventing you from seeing your children. Call our Ogden criminal defense attorneys for help challenging the allegations against you. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 for a free legal consultation.