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California Stalking Law & Defense

California Penal Code 646.9(A) & More

Information on the crime of Stalking is found at California penal code section 646.9(a).

A defendant is charged with stalking if the district attorney reasonably believes that the defendant did all of the following:

  • Willfully and maliciously harassed another person repeatedly, and
  • The defendant made a credible threat with the intent to place the otter person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family.

According to PC 646.9(a), a credible threat is a threat that causes another person to reasonably fear for his or her safety and where the defendant appears to be able to carry out the threat. A credible threat may be made orally, in writing, or electronically. The threat may also be implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of statements and conduct.

Also, according to PC 646.9, to harass someone means to engage in a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously annoys, alarms, torments, or terrorizes the person and that serves no legitimate purpose.

As stated, stalking is a repeated offense that is carried out over time. How many times a victim must be harassed or threatened in order for the defendant to properly be charged with the crime of stalking depends on the circumstances of the case.

Also, the amount of time between harassing or threatening conduct sufficient to charge stalking charges depends on the circumstances of the case; however, it is not inconceivable to be charged with stalking under PC 646.9(a) after only a few minutes of contact between the defendant and the alleged victim. For example, after a heated debate and argument between sports fans at a baseball game the defendant follows the victim to the victim's car while threatening to kill the victim. This conduct could be charged as a one time criminal threats under PC 422(a) or under a stalking allegation (PC 646.9(a) even though the time between repeated threats is minimal. 

Sentence for Stalking

Stalking charges may be filed as misdemeanors or as felonies. When stalking is charged as a misdemeanor it is usually because the defendant has made no credible threat towards the victim and the defendant has very minimal criminal history (See PC 646.9(a)). If stalking is charged as  misdemeanor under PC 646.9(a), the defendant may face up to a year in the county jail.

If stalking charges are filed as a felony under the defendant may face up to three (3) years in prison.

It may be possible for a criminal defense attorney to reduce a felony stalking charge to a misdemeanor stalking charge despite the district attorney's objection to the reduction in classification.

Probation Sentence for Stalking Crimes

A probation sentence may be available upon a conviction for stalking. Probation sentences are sentences that are served on a supervision status. Supervision may be formal (with a probation officer) or informal (no probation officer). Some probation sentences include terms for short jail sentences but the jail sentences associated with probation sentences are much shorter than a sentence without probation and most jail sentences associated with probation sentence is usually served on house arrest or work release (as opposed to an actual in-custody jail sentence).

If the defendant is sentenced to prison for PC 646.9 convictions (as opposed to being sentenced to probation) he or she may not have his or her prison sentence suspended or split (See PC 1170h Crimes).

Collateral Punishment for Stalking Crimes

In addition to possible jail or prison sentences, if found guilty of the crime of stalking under PC 646.9(a), the defendant may be ordered to pay fines and restitution, lose his or her professional license, lose his or her immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), be ordered to attend anger management classes, be ordered to stay away from the victim, be placed on probation or parole, and other harsh penalties.

Defenses to Stalking (PC 646.9(a))

Possible defenses against a criminal charge of stalking under PC 646.9 include, but are not limited to: Self defense, mistake of fact, alibi defense, police misconduct (coerced confessions or illegal search and seizure violations), insufficient evidence, statute of limitations, insanity defense, and more.

Important: If you are charged with a crime, or you are a suspect in a criminal allegation, you should contact a criminal defense attorney before discussing any part of your case with anyone, especially law enforcement.

If you have been charged with stalking under California penal code 646.9 or 646.9(a), contact our experienced and successful criminal defense attorneys without delay for a free consultation. Our criminal defense team has successfully handled hundreds of felony and misdemeanor crimes, including stalking crimes filed under PC 646.9(a). Our attorneys are available 24/7 to answer all you questions. Call today!


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PC646.9(A)-F: Stalking Defense

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Crimes Related to Stalking: PC 646.9(A), include:

  • PC 646.9(a): Stalking with threats
  • PC 646.9(c)(2) Stalking with prior felony conviction
  • PC 646.9(b) Stalking in violation of court order
  • PC 422(a) Criminal threats
  • PC 245 Assault
  • PC 242 Battery

California Stalking Laws & Defense / PC646.9(A)-F: Stalking


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