Stalking or cyberstalking another person is a serious crime that is aggressively prosecuted in North Carolina to prevent the actions from turning into more dangerous behaviors and to protect the victims. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, a person can also be arrested for other offenses, such as trespassing or breaking and entering. If you have been charged with one of these crimes, contact Browning & Long, PLLC as soon as possible so that we can help you build the best defense strategy in your criminal case.
North Carolina Stalking Offense and Penalties
Stalking occurs when a person willfully on two or more occasions harasses a person without legal purpose or engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific individual without legal purpose, and that would result in a reasonable person to do one of the following:
- Fear for her safety or the safety of her family or a close personal associate
- Suffer substantial emotional distress due to the fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment
There are many ways that a person can commit the crime of stalking—maybe without even realizing that he is committing this offense. It can involve a pattern of following or watching an individual, intimidating behaviors, or repeated threats. Examples of what may be considered stalking include:
- Repeatedly calling someone, even after being told to stop contacting her
- Sending voicemails that are harassing or threatening
- Harassing the individual on social media
- Following or spying on the victim
- Driving by or showing up at the person’s home or job without being invited
- Sending the person unwanted gifts or letters
- Contacting the victim’s family or friends
- Spreading rumors that are untrue
- Threatening harm to a person’s property or pets
- Threatening or engaging in physical or sexual assault
Stalking is charged as an A1 misdemeanor if it is a first offense. A subsequent conviction would be a Class G felony. If the stalking occurs after there is a court order prohibiting the conduct against the victim, the crime could be elevated to a Class H felony. If convicted, your punishment would depend in part on your prior criminal record. You could be sentenced to the following:
- A1 misdemeanor: Up to 150 days in jail and a fine to be set by the judge
- Class G felony: 8 to 31 months in prison
- Class H felony: 4 to 25 months in prison
North Carolina’s Cyberstalking Offense and Penalties
Cyberstalking involves the use of electronic communications or email to harass or threaten another person. There are three ways that this crime can be committed:
- Use of electronic communications or email to transmit words or language that threatens to inflict bodily harm on another person or her child, siblings, spouse, or dependent or the person’s property for the purpose of extorting the money or other property of value.
- Electronically mailing or otherwise communicating with another person repeatedly for the purpose of threatening, abusing, annoying, terrifying, or abusing the person, whether or not there is a conversation with her.
- Electronically mailing or otherwise communicating with another person, her family, or a member of her household and knowingly making false statements regarding death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct, or criminal conduct. There must also be an intent to threaten, abuse, annoy, terrify, or abuse her.
Electronic communications can include those on Facebook, Twitter, and any other form of social media. There is no requirement that the threats or other communications be believed by the victim or that a reasonable person would believe them to be true.
Cyberstalking is a Class 2 misdemeanor. It can be punished by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
What constitutes stalking or cyberstalking will depend on the particular facts and circumstances surrounding a person’s arrest. If you have been charged with one of these crimes, you may have defenses—even if you are guilty—that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation with our experienced criminal defense lawyers to learn how we can assist you.