The recent arrest of a Scranton man offers a useful opportunity to discuss stalking in Pennsylvania, particularly what enhancements can do to a stalking sentence.
Earlier this year, Gregory Rossi, 49 of Hazelton, received 30 months in prison for stalking. Two and a half years may seem like a steep sentence for a first offense, but Mr. Rossi's case was complicated by other factors, particularly the fact that in stalking the victim, he had violated a PFA (Protection from Abuse) order.
Stalking in Pennsylvania
When you hear the term “stalking,” you may think of shadowy street corners, dark alleys, beige raincoats with the collars turned up against the rain. Or maybe you think of obsessed fans collecting pictures of their pop idols, cutting out the eyes, and pasting them on the wall.
The truth is, stalking can be much simpler. Pennsylvania law defines stalking in two ways:
- Repeatedly committing acts towards another person, such as following them, with the intent either to harm them or cause them substantial emotional distress.
- Repeatedly communicating with another person with the intent either to harm them or cause them substantial emotional distress.
It's important to remember that current law has been written to cover not only the physical act of following a person but also the virtual act of “stalking” them online or by phone or text message. In addition, you need not commit physical violence to be arrested for stalking; simply following someone or contacting them can be enough. Finally, the law uses the word “repeatedly” and the phrase “course of conduct.” Contacting someone just twice might be considered a pattern.
Violating a PFA in the Process of Stalking
Stalking itself comes with serious penalties. Generally, stalking in Pennsylvania is treated in one of two ways:
- Misdemeanor: If you have no history of stalking, you will typically be charged with a misdemeanor. However, for that misdemeanor, you can face up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Felony: If you have a history of stalking the person, you will likely be charged with a felony. This comes with a sentence of up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Violating a PFA in the process of stalking can cause additional problems, as Mr. Rossi's case demonstrates. The PFA itself served as evidence that Mr. Rossi had a history with the victim and a pattern of behavior. As a result, his violation of the order was used as an enhancement when the court determined his sentence. He may actually have been lucky, then, to receive only 30 months.
Have You Been Accused? Call a Professional.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience with stalking and related crimes, from harassment to sexual assault. If you find yourself accused of one of these crimes, the very first thing you should do is contact Joseph D. Lento. He knows the law and how to protect your rights. He's also sympathetic to your particular situation. Joseph D. Lento will stand by your side from start to finish and make sure you get the very best possible result.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.