Have you Been Charged with Aggravated Stalking in Georgia?
Privacy is one of the fundamental rights that are guaranteed to us under the Constitution. Stalking is one of the crimes that threaten that right, and some examples include the following of someone, driving by someone's house, work, or school, secretly photographing or videotaping someone, sending unwanted texts, emails, letters, or gifts, or threatening a person or their family.
Emotions and tensions run high with stalking cases, and it is important to have an Attorney that can help you deal with those stresses. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Aggravated Stalking Attorneys have years of experience and are well equipped to assist you with your case. A charge is not the same as a conviction so protect yourself and your loved ones by calling an experienced Aggravated Stalking Lawyer in Georgia today.
Georgia Law on Aggravated Stalking
The predicate crime of stalking is defined in O.C.G.A. §16-5-90:
A person will be convicted of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.
However, the crime can become elevated to aggravated stalking when a person, in violation of a bond to keep the peace posted pursuant to Code Section 17-6-10, temporary restraining order, temporary protective order, permanent restraining order, permanent protective order, preliminary injunction, good behavior bond, or permanent injunction or condition of pretrial release, condition of probation or condition of parole in effect prohibiting the behavior described in this subsection, follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person. O.C.G.A. §16-5-91
A woman was found guilty of aggravated stalking when she violated a protective order granted to her mother by the Court. Oliver v. State, 325 Ga. App. 649, (2014). The accused, Oliver, had a long history of mental and drug abuse problems. She lived with her mother, Goss, until Goss started to fear for her life with Oliver's volatile behavior. Goss received a family violence ex parte protective order that required Oliver to stay away from her mother's home and from coming within 100 yards of her. A couple of weeks later, Oliver telephoned Goss and said that she was coming over. Oliver arrived at the house and started knocking on the door, and Goss refused to let her in. Oliver became screaming at Goss and became agitated that she was not letting her into the house. The police arrived shortly after that and transported Oliver to the hospital. During the trial, Oliver argued that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for aggravated stalking. However, the Court did not agree. The evidence showed that Oliver repeatedly violated the protective order by calling Goss, appearing at her home, knocking at the door, yelling and screaming at her, demanding that she be allowed inside the home, and refusing to leave the property despite numerous requests by Goss. Therefore, the Court convicted the accused of aggravated stalking.
In this case, an ex-boyfriend was convicted of aggravated stalking after he violated a protective order issued by the Court. Maskivish v. State, 276 Ga. App. 701, (2005). During their relationship, the defendant accused the victim of cheating and threatened to kill her. He also threatened to rape and kill her seven-year-old daughter. The victim ended the relationship and filed for a temporary protective order. The defendant continued to call her and attempted to burglarize her home. He also sent letters that included disparaging references to the victim's appearance, references to the alleged infidelities, and a suggestion that she should be tested for HIV. During the trial, the defendant argued that his conduct was not for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the victim. However, he directly violated a protective order when he sent letters to her, and the Court stated that a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the acts were intended to harass and intimidate the victim. In addition, the victim was reasonable in fearing for and her daughter's safety. Therefore, the Court found that a conviction for aggravated stalking was justified.
What Has to be Proven for an Aggravated Stalking Conviction?
To be convicted of aggravated stalking in Georgia, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes showing that there is a pattern of harassing and intimidating the victim and a violation of an order granted by the Court. Just one single violation of a protective order or one single incident of harassing or intimidating behavior will not be enough to show a pattern. The jury will determine whether the evidence demonstrates a pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior. While looking at the evidence, the jury could consider the history between the parties, the attempts to contact the victim, any confrontational acts, etc.
Penalty for an Aggravated Stalking Conviction
A person who commits the offense of aggravated stalking in Georgia will be guilty of a felony. The penalty will be a prison term of one to ten years and a fine of no more than $10,000.00. O.C.G.A. §16-5-91(b).
Also before a conviction for stalking, a judge may require the defendant undergo a psychological evaluation, and the judge is allowed to consider the entire criminal record of the accused. During the sentencing, the judge may place a permanent restraining order against the defendant to protect the victim from being stalked as well as their family. If the defendant has not undergone a psychological evaluation beforehand, the judge is authorized to require psychological treatment as a part of the sentence, or as a condition for suspension of the sentence, or probation. O.C.G.A. §16-5-90(d)
Georgia Aggravated Stalking Defenses
Mistaken Identify: There is a possibility that the victim identified the wrong person as their stalker. If you can prove it was someone else, then that would be an excellent defense for your case.
Consent: If you received permission from the person to put them under surveillance or contact them, then any evidence of that would be greatly beneficial to your case.
It was a one-time offense: Harassing and intimidating requires showing that there was a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior. A one-time incident will not suffice. State v. Burke, 287 Ga. 377, (2010). If the incident only happened one time, your Lawyer will work with you to show the Court that it was an accident and that it will not happen again.
Lack of Contact: There must be some contact with the victim. The Court has held that a letter written by the accused to the victim and given to the victim through the District Attorney's office was not sufficient evidence to sustain an aggravated stalking conviction. Seibert v. State, 321 Ga. App. 243, (2013).
What are not Defenses
No harm was done to the victim: There is no requirement that the victim has to suffer an injury at the hands of the defendant. Any harassment or intimidation tactics in violation of an order will be sufficient grounds to be convicted.
The communications were never in person: The Court has defined contact to include any communications over the Internet as well as phone conversations.
It was a one-time violation of a protective order: A single violation of a protective order will be sufficient to receive a conviction for aggravated stalking as long as that violation is part of a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior. Louisyr v. State, 307 Ga. App. 724, (2011).
The conduct was not unequivocally hostile, and there were no explicit threats: The conduct being examined does not have to be overtly threatening to provide the requisite degree of intimidation and harassment if it is ongoing despite requests by the victim to cease.
Having knowledgeable representation is of up the utmost importance when facing a criminal charge. Your Georgia Aggravated Stalking Attorney will investigate all the details surrounding your case and evaluate your options. They will be available all the time to you – even nights and weekends – because your case is important. Lawson and Berry and their team of Aggravated Stalking Lawyers in Georgia will work with you to fight your charge and avoid a conviction. Call today and schedule a free consultation.