Stalking is a word that is commonly tossed around in modern language.  Calling a person a stalker nowadays has very little meaning, and despite the fact that the word has a negative connotation, it is almost used casually.  But the crime of stalking is not something that can be treated casually.  Despite the fact that it is a misdemeanor under Maryland law, it is still a serious offense with a maximum punishment of 5 years in prison.  And unlike other misdemeanors, even a first time offender can be sentenced to jail time upon conviction.  This crime has a specific and complex definition, and therefore there are many instances of false arrests based on legally insufficient or uncredible accusations.   Thus, it is important to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you or someone you love has been charged or is being investigated for this serious offense.

In order for a defendant to be convicted of stalking, the state must prove a malicious course of conduct.  This basically means that there must be a series of events, and two or even three may not be enough to qualify as a course of conduct.  The conduct at issue must include approaching or pursuing a person with the intent to place that person in fear.  The defendant does not have to actually intend to place the victim in fear provided the government can prove the defendant reasonably should have known the conduct would cause fear.  The law also requires that the fear must be of some sort of violent act, which can include bodily injury, assault, rape or other sexual offense, false imprisonment, or death.  It is also a crime to place another in fear that a third person will be harmed.  This third person clause often comes into play when children of the victim and or shared children of the victim and defendant are involved.

There are a variety of defenses to stalking, which if successfully invoked could result in the dismissal of all charges.  If the course of conduct was performed to ensure compliance with a court order or performed to carry out a specific lawful commercial purpose then the conduct is not criminal.  These defenses come into play once again when children are involved, typically in child custody issues.  The commercial purpose defense typically comes into play when money or property is the root of the course of conduct, but this still does not provide a defense to threats of violence.  Any sentence for this crime may be imposed separate or consecutive to a sentence for any other crime based on the acts establishing a violation.  For example if a defendant is convicted of stalking based on multiple threats of violence, then he or she may be sentenced for the multiple assaults and for stalking.  Contact the lawyers at The Herbst Firm for a free consultation about the charges or accusations that you are facing.  We are prepared to sit down and discuss the possible defenses of this crime including ways to have the charges dismissed or dropped down to a lesser charge such as harassment.  Benjamin Herbst is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is willing to travel to meet you as well.
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