Stalking is a crime in all states, characterized as a pattern of malicious and willful behavior rather than a one-time event. Often it is charged against estranged partners and spouses, but it can also apply to complete strangers as is sometimes the case with celebrity stalkers.
California stalking law defines the crime as repeated harassment that creates a credible threat of harm either for the victim or the victim's immediate family. Victims of stalking typically seek restraining orders (also called "orders of protection") to keep offenders away. If a restraining order is in place, then someone who commits the crime of stalking can face stronger penalties or even separate charges for violation of the court's order.
Overview Of California Stalking Laws
To learn more about the basic elements of stalking laws in California, and their penalties, see the chart provided below.
||California Penal Code Section 646.9 (stalking and harassment)
|Stalking Defined as
||Willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another and makes credible threat with intent to place another in reasonable fear for own safety or safety of his/her immediate family.
This punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines
If probation is granted or the sentence is suspended, counseling is required unless the court makes a good cause determination that it not be imposed.
If the perpetrator has been convicted of a spousal or child abuse felony, violated a protection order, or made terroristic threats, then the punishment can increase to 2, 3, or 5 years in state prison.
|Penalty for Repeat Offense
||Stalking that violates a temporary restraining order, injunction, or court order against the same party, is punishable by imprisonment for 2, 3, or 4 years. Every person who, having been convicted of a felony under this section commits second/subsequent violations shall be punished by imprisonment in state prison for 2, 3 or 5 years.
|Arrest or Restraining Order Specifically Authorized by Statute?
||A restraining order can be valid for up to 10 years.
|Constitutionally Protected Activities Exempted?
||Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the prohibited conduct described under the stalking statute.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
California Stalking Laws: Related Resources
Get Professional Legal Help With Your Stalking Case
If you're facing prosecution under California's stalking laws, it's critical to have the right representation as early as possible in your case. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help evaluate the evidence against you and can be your strongest advocate in court. Reach out to a California defense attorney today.