When love turns dangerous—stalking charges in New York

When love turns dangerous—stalking charges in New York

Valentine’s Day is only a few days away, reminding us that we have a limited amount of time left to buy chocolates and flowers and make romantic dinner reservations. These are standard ways that we celebrate the day with our significant other. But what if that significant other doesn’t feel the same way about you? Stalking is the unwanted and often obsessive pursuit of another person. Associated behaviors include following the person, calling and texting them, sending gifts, and showing up at their home unannounced. One recent example is that of Mohammed Jaffar, who hung around singer Taylor Swift’s New York condominium and rang her doorbell incessantly. He was arrested on burglary and stalking charges and ordered to stay away from the pop star.

In New York, stalking is regarded as a type of criminal harassment. You can be charged if another person claims that despite being asked to stop, you intentionally engaged in conduct that had no legitimate purpose and should have known that such behavior would cause them to fear:

  • Physical harm to themselves or their family, friends, and property OR
  • Mental or emotional harm due to ongoing communication or contact with them, their
    friends, or family
  • A detrimental effect on their job, career, or business if you keep calling them at work or showing up unannounced

With smartphones and social media being mainstream now, actions such as unwanted text messages, emails, and Facebook or Twitter comments can be considered stalking or, at the very least, cyberstalking.

If someone accuses you of harassing them in one or more of these ways, you could be arrested for stalking in the fourth degree, which is a Class B misdemeanor. The charge could be upgraded to stalking in the third degree if you appear to be a frequent offender—in other words, you allegedly stalked three or more people on three or more different occasions, or you were convicted of stalking in the previous ten years. If you used a weapon to harass or threaten an individual, you could be charged with stalking in the second degree. Stalking in the first degree occurs when you cause physical harm or commit other felonies or misdemeanors while pursuing the person.

While many New Yorkers legitimately fear for their safety due to stalker harassment, others use the allegation to punish someone else, usually a former partner. You may have a legitimate reason for being somewhere, but this may not stop a vindictive party from accusing you of stalking them.

If this happens to you, contact a New York criminal defense attorney immediately. Obtaining legal counsel right away and formulating a solid defense strategy are the best ways that you can prove your innocence and avoid a charge that can haunt the rest of your life. Julie Rendelman is an experienced criminal defense attorney who has helped many clients obtain the positive outcomes they deserve. If you are facing stalking charges or other associated criminal charges in New York, then call 212-951-1232 or visit www.RendelmanLaw.com. Ms. Rendelman offers free consultations.