According to DeKalb County police, an Atlanta police officer, Jason Ricketts, has been accused of both stalking and threatening his ex-girlfriend. Ricketts was arrested on Tuesday morning, and as a result, the Atlanta police have decided to relieve Ricketts of his officer duties depending on the outcome of the investigation.
I wrote a post a few weeks ago about how an arrest can happen to anyone, and this is yet another example. No one is immune from arrest or accusation. Everyone is human, and therefore, mistakes happen. Wrongful accusations also happen. Just because someone has been accused of a crime does not mean that he or she is guilty. To understand what Ricketts has been accused of, let's take a closer look into the offense of stalking.
Stalking is something that is overplayed in the media. Most people don't have a clear understanding of what exactly is the crime of stalking in Georgia.
As usual - let's look to the Georgia Code.
Georgia law defines the offense of stalking as when a person “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. §16-5-90). According to the statute, contact includes but is not limited to:
- In person
- By telephone
- By mail
- By broadcast
- By computer
- By computer network
- Or by any other electronic device
A conviction of stalking can include a few different punishments.
In order to be convicted, that state of Georgia must demonstrate that there has been a pattern of both harassing and intimidating the alleged victim. The judge in the case can require that the accused person receives a psychological evaluation. Also worth noting is that the judge is actually allowed to consider the accused person's entire criminal record. If the state shows that the accused person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then he or she will be convicted of stalking.
The first offense of stalking is considered a misdemeanor, but any subsequent conviction will be considered a felony. The judge can also place a permanent restraining order against the accused person and require psychological treatment as part of the sentence or probation.
However, there is a more serious crime of aggravated stalking in Georgia:
Another way someone can violate the statute is if he or she actually violates a court-issued restraining, protective, or any other type of order or a condition of his or her bond such as a no-contact provision. This is considered aggravated stalking in Georgia, and it is considered a felony in Georgia.
Let's look at two examples of aggravated stalking.
First, "A" divorces "B" and gets a temporary restraining order against "B." Some time later "B" comes to the house, and "A" calls the police. "B" is charged with aggravated stalking. Next, "C" gets in a bar fight with "D," hits "D," and is arrested for battery. A condition of "C's" bond is that he is not allowed to contact "D." He goes to the bar anyway to talk it out with "D" and apologize. "D" calls the police and "C" is arrested for aggravated stalking.
There are some Georgia Criminal Defenses that are applicable to a stalking or aggravated stalking charge.
First, if there is a possibility that the alleged victim misidentified the accused person, and he or she can prove someone else. Also, if the alleged victim gave consent for the behavior, and the accused person can present evidence of that consent. If the behavior was only a one time offense, and the accused person can demonstrate that there was no repetition of harassment.
If you or a loved one has been charged with the offense of stalking in Georgia, you need to speak with a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney today. It is important to be represented by an attorney who understands Georgia courts and Georgia law because he or she can provide the best defense for your specific case. Contact us today.