Navigating the dating world is tricky. You may not always know whether the object of your affection has understood your intentions or whether it is appropriate to continue to pursue them. What began as tricky can become risky if you cross over from awkwardly flirting to stalking. Read on to learn the difference.
What Is Stalking?
Stalking isn't only following a person around and tracking their movements – although it can be. According to the law in Pennsylvania, stalking is “repeated harassment that creates substantial emotional distress.” This includes two key elements. The first element is that the behavior must be repeated. This means that it must happen more than once, and it doesn't matter how far apart those incidents occur. The second element is that the behavior must cause substantial emotional distress or a reasonable fear of bodily harm. If the behavior makes the person feel very afraid or threatened, then it could be considered stalking.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Stalking?
In Pennsylvania, stalking is a misdemeanor of the first degree. However, if the defendant has previously been convicted of stalking or a crime of violence against the victim, then stalking becomes a felony of the third degree. A PFA (Protection from Abuse) order may be filed against the defendant to stop the behavior and prevent contact. The punishment for stalking for a first-degree misdemeanor can be up to five years in jail. Fines up to $10,000 can also be imposed. For a third-degree felony stalking charge, you can be incarcerated for up to seven years and fined up to $15,000.
What Is the Difference Between Flirting and Stalking?
The difference between awkwardly flirting with someone and stalking them is determined by whether the behavior is unwanted and repeated. If you make advances toward someone and they tell you that they are not interested and you continue a repeated, unwanted behavior, that can be considered stalking. Asking a woman out on a date is not stalking, but leaving letters at her home every day begging her to go on a date with you is stalking. The behavior doesn't have to be physical or occur in person to be considered stalking, either. Contacting that person repeatedly by telephone or on the internet can also be considered stalking.
If you have been accused of stalking, you should immediately stop making contact of any kind with the accuser. Don't approach them in person, don't call them, don't leave gifts or notes at their home or place of work, and don't email or send messages through social media. Cease contact and get an attorney to represent you right away.
Joseph D. .Lento is an expert Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, and he has many years of experience in defending people against stalking charges. He and his expert team at the Lento Law Firm will protect you against these charges and advise you on the best course of action. Call 888-535-3686 or go online to schedule a consultation right away.