Some people jokingly refer to a friend as a “stalker” if they coincidentally meet around town. The idea of stalking is even played for laughs in some movies and TV shows, such as Wedding Crashers and Flight of the Conchords. But no matter how stalking is presented in popular culture, it’s actually a serious offense that falls under the branch of domestic violence crimes in Colorado.
Many people charged with domestic violence for stalking are surprised that their seemingly innocuous behavior could be labeled as a crime. After all, how could you have committed a crime if you never hurt anyone? How was sending flowers or texting someone you cared about wrong? In reality, any repeated and unwanted contact can be considered stalking, even if you never meant to do any harm.
It’s important to understand how stalking is defined and why it is considered a crime, especially if you are currently facing a domestic violence charge.
What is Stalking?
As mentioned above, stalking is defined as any repeated unwanted contact that causes a victim to be fearful. According to the non-profit organization The Women’s Center, stalking is typically motivated by a desire to control the victim’s actions and feelings and to maintain some kind of relationship with the victim. Examples of stalking behavior may include:
• Making unwanted romantic gestures, such as sending flowers or presents to a person’s home or workplace
• Gathering personal information about a person (such as their address or schedule) from friends, employers, family members, neighbors, and other sources
• Repeatedly calling, texting, or emailing a person to check up on them or make threats
• Following or “accidentally” running into a person
• Breaking into a person’s home or trespassing on their property
• Damaging a person’s property or killing their pet
• Leaving behind notes or other pieces of evidence so a person will know you were on their property
In some cases, stalking can escalate into blackmail or even physical attacks. However, even if you’re not accused of committing any acts of physical violence, you can still face serious penalties if convicted of stalking, including:
• A restraining order
• Steep fines
• Jail time
• Community service
• Mandatory counseling
• A criminal record that can be viewed by the public
Stalking Is Serious, and So Are the Penalties
Hopefully, the above list of penalties will make it clear just how seriously the state of Colorado takes stalking. Even if you avoid serving a prison sentence, you may find yourself facing a restraining order, which will prohibit you not only from seeing the person who filed the restraining order, but from contacting them electronically or through a third party. If you and the person who filed the restraining order have children together, you may also be prohibited from seeing or contacting them.
Once a restraining order is in place for a prescribed period, it can be difficult to terminate, even if the person who filed the restraining order has a change of heart. The person who filed the restraining order will have to file a written “Order to Terminate,” pay filing fees, and wait for a judge to evaluate the order.
If the person you allegedly stalked never files a restraining order but you are still convicted of domestic violence for stalking, you will, if nothing else, face a criminal record and the stigma that comes with being accused of committing an act of domestic violence. This may make it difficult to get housing, find a job, continue your education, or carry out any other activity that requires a background check. A conviction might also strain relationships with your friends, family, and neighbors.
Don’t Put Yourself in a Position to Be Convicted of Stalking
The best way to avoid facing a stalking conviction is, obviously, to avoid stalking behavior. If you feel compelled to follow someone or to maintain a romantic relationship that has ended, seek counseling and look for a healthier outlet for your emotions. Checking up on someone who doesn’t want your attention isn’t worth the risk of a conviction and a restraining order.
However, if you’ve already been charged with domestic violence for stalking in Colorado, either because you did engage in stalking behavior or because you were wrongfully accused, it’s essential that you contact a Denver domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible. A defense attorney may be able to reduce your penalties or find mitigating evidence that can prevent you from being convicted.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’ll be fine because your actions didn’t cause any physical harm. You need to take a stalking charge seriously and get the best defense available because you can be sure the prosecution will be taking your case seriously.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.