There are four degrees of stalking punishable by law in New York. Fourth and third-degree stalking are considered misdemeanors, but second and first-degree stalking are classed as felony offenses.
The consequences of stalking depend on the severity of the behavior and whether it rises to the level of felony charges. In some cases, charges may result in long-term imprisonment or hefty fines if convicted. If you have been accused of stalking, you should contact a reputable criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Common behaviors that may result in a charge of stalking include:
- Following a victim
- Watching a victim
- Trespassing or being near a victim’s home or workplace
- Stealing or vandalizing a victim’s mail or property
- Initiating unwanted contact via phone, text, mail, email, etc.
- Tracking a victim either via GPS or another method
- Monitoring a victim’s internet history
It is important to realize that the crime of stalking covers not only the primary victim of stalking but also their family members and acquaintances.
Stalking in the Fourth Degree
NY Penal Law § 120.45 defines stalking in the fourth degree as “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose” engaging in conduct directed toward a specific person or victim. The person engaging in this conduct must either know or reasonably should know that their behavior will have any of the following impacts:
- Cause reasonable fear of material harm to the victim, their family, or their acquaintance
- Cause harm to the victim’s mental or emotional state or that of their family or acquaintances
- Causes a reasonable fear that the victim’s employment or business may be harmed
Fourth-degree stalking is a Class B misdemeanor, which can be punished by:
- 3 months incarceration
- Up to $500 in fines
Stalking in the Third Degree
In New York, the degrees of stalking escalate based on whether the person accused of stalking has been previously convicted of stalking, is accused of stalking multiple individuals, or stalked a person under the age of 14.
According to NY Penal Code NY Penal Law § 120.50, to be charged with stalking in the third degree, a person must be accused of at least one of the following:
- Stalking 3 or more victims
- Committing fourth-degree stalking within 10 years of a prior conviction of fourth-degree stalking
Third-degree stalking is a Class A misdemeanor, which can be punished by:
- 1-year incarceration
- Up to $1000 in fines
Stalking in the Second Degree
NY Penal Law § 120.55 defines stalking in the second degree as stalking in the third degree with the addition of at least one of the following:
- The use of a weapon in the course of committing the crime
- A second conviction withing 5 years
- Or, the victim is under the age of 14 and the person accused is over 21
- Stalking 10 or more victims
Second-degree stalking is a Class E felony and is punishable by:
- 4 years incarceration
- Up to $5000 in fines
Stalking in the First Degree
According to NY Penal Law § 120.60, a person can be convicted of stalking in the first degree if they commit stalking in the third or second degree but, in the course of doing so, also intentionally or recklessly cause physical harm to the victim. You can also be charged with stalking in the first degree if, in the course of stalking someone, you commit sexual abuse in the second degree, rape in the third or second degree, or a criminal sexual act in the third or second degree.
First-degree stalking is a Class D felony, and, if convicted, you can face penalties of:
- 7 years incarceration
- Up to $5000 in fines
Other Consequences for Stalking
Additionally, those convicted of stalking may be subject to a restraining order – also called an order of protection – which can prevent them from going near the victim or their family. A restraining order is a powerful tool for those seeking safety from a stalker. This type of order is issued by the court to protect victims from the unwanted contact or threats they have experienced. When a restraining order is issued, the stalker can face serious consequences such as jail time, hefty fines, and probation if they violate the order.
If convicted, you can also be ordered by the judge to pay restitution to the victim, depending on the circumstances.
What About Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is a form of stalking that occurs online or through electronic communication and can include sending threatening emails, posting harassing messages on social media sites or even monitoring someone’s online activity without their knowledge. Cyberstalking has become increasingly common in recent years as technology advances and more people use the internet to communicate with one another.
In the state of New York, cyberstalking is taken very seriously and is punishable under the same statutes that cover other kinds of stalking in addition to a charge of Aggravated Harassment. It's important for anyone accused of cyberstalking to understand that these cases are treated just as seriously as physical stalking cases in New York State courts.
At Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry PLLC, we understand just how serious this crime can be and the potential ramifications for those convicted. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys believe that everyone deserves fair representation under the law regardless of their alleged crimes and strive to give our clients quality legal counsel throughout every step of their case.
To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call us at (516) 218-5131.