Any variation of stalking is an offense that will be taken very seriously in the state of Nevada. While the information compiled below will provide a helpful overview of stalking crimes, their definitions, possible defenses and penalties upon conviction, we further advise anyone who has been charged with an alleged act of stalking, aggravated stalking or cyberstalking to seek the legal counsel of an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Stalking Crimes in Nevada
Relevant state law (NRS 200.575) defines stalking in a general sense as a crime that has been committed when the following conditions apply:
● The accused perpetrator of the crime had no lawful authority to engage in the behavior that resulted in the accusation. This includes acts which were initiated or continued without the consent of the victim.
● The accused was willfully engaged in a pattern of behavior that consisted of several acts over a continuing amount of time, all of which were directed at a specific person.
● This continued course of conduct would and/or actually does cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful, in regards to not only their own personal safety but for the immediate safety of any members of their family or household as well.
Nevada law further recognizes two additional distinctions of stalking – aggravated stalking and cyberstalking, which are defined in the following ways:
Aggravated stalking occurs when the accused has committed the general crime of stalking, but in addition to that has also intentionally threatened the victim in a way that gives them reason to fear substantial bodily harm or death. A threat in this instance does not need to have been verbally expressed to qualify, but can also include physical acts or body language that leave the victim in fear for their safety.
Cyberstalking occurs when the accused has committed the general crime of stalking, but does so through the use of an Internet or network site, e-mail, text message or other comparable means of communication to publish, display or distribute information in a manner which substantially increases the risk of harm or violence to the victim.
Penalties for Stalking
Misdemeanor, with up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in possible fines
Gross misdemeanor, with up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in possible fines, or an alternate probation period of 3 years.
Category C felony, with 1 to 5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in possible fines, or an alternate probation period of up to 5 years.
Category B felony, with 2 to 15 years in prison and up to $5,000 in possible fines, or an alternate probation period of up to 5 years.
Further Clarification and Examples of Stalking Crimes
It is not unusual for someone who has been accused of stalking to feel that they weren’t doing anything wrong because they didn’t consider or actively intend for their own behavior to be threatening or malicious, and this can be perceived as something of a fine line. However, it’s important to understand that the feelings invoked in the recipient of the continual acts or behaviors in question and their reaction to any continued contact are largely what determines whether that behavior is criminal in nature and could be considered stalking.
Some of the most common examples of behavior that can be construed as stalking include the following:
● Making repeated phone calls and/or leaving multiple voicemails
● Loitering outside of a person’s residence or workplace
● Frequently showing up without an invitation to a person’s home, workplace or other locations
● Following a person on foot or by car for an extended distance or period of time
● Attempting to contact and communicate with a person’s family, friends or workmates with no valid reason to do so
● Vandalization or defacement of a person’s property
It’s also worth noting that one or two instances of contact that are not welcome don’t necessarily qualify as stalking – it is most commonly a frequently repeated pattern of unwanted contact that meets the criteria of a stalking crime.
Common Defenses to Stalking Charges
While the specific circumstances surrounding any accusation of stalking will need to be taken into account by your attorney to determine which defense is applicable to your case, there are a few common defenses to charges of this nature. These may include the following:
● Misidentification of the Accused – This occurs most often when the victim of stalking behavior accuses someone based on a presumption that they might be responsible – usually due either to some prior connection with that person or by mistaking some distinguishing evidence related to the acts in question as related to that person. An example of this would be accusing a former partner of stalking because you think you recognize the handwriting on an unwanted gift or card as theirs or because you saw someone from a distance that you believe looked like someone you know, but who were too far away for an indisputable identification.
● Falsely Made Accusation – This situation most often arises when there has been some dispute between two people and one of those people makes a false accusation against the other for no reason other than to have a negative effect on their life. This type of accusation is often considered by the accuser to be a form of revenge. More often than not, false accusations can be recognized for what they are by an experienced attorney and there will not be sufficient proof of guilt to maintain the charges, resulting in a dismissal of the case.
● First Amendment Protection – When someone is accused of stalking due to actions they were undertaking which fall under the umbrella of their line of employment – for example, accusing a reporter of stalking because they have repeatedly attempted to make contact with you as part of their job – their actions are often considered to be protected by the First Amendment.
● Lack of Threat (In Cases of Aggravated Stalking) – It’s also possible for someone who has been charged with aggravated stalking to have their charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor if they can prove that there was no actual threat made to the victim.
If you are currently facing charges of stalking or aggravated stalking and you would like to discuss the details of your case with an attorney who is experienced in the defense of stalking crimes in the state of Nevada, we encourage you to contact our office today. We offer case evaluations and are ready to help you determine the best of the legal options that may be available to you.