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Fourth Degree Stalking: NY Penal Law 120.45

Irrespective of the legal analysis and the set of facts in your case, your criminal defense attorney will undoubtedly advise you that any degree of Stalking is a significant crime. With grave consequences inside the criminal justice system and collaterally to careers, professional certifications and immigration statuses, you can never be too prepared to combat an arrest for Penal Law 120.45. While it may be the lowest of New York’s Stalking offenses, Fourth Degree Stalking by no means is “low-level.” As a class “B” misdemeanor it will saddle you with a permanent record just as if it was the most violent of felony offenses. Simply, a conviction for PL 120.45 can never be expunged. Because prosecutors across the city and state recognize that this crime is routinely associated with conduct that jeopardizes the life and safety of others, you must prepare yourself and your defense at the earliest possible opportunity.

Definitions and Elements

As a preliminary matter, you are guilty of Stalking in the Fourth Degree if you intentionally engage in a course of conduct for no legitimate purpose. This course of conduct must also be directed at a specific person and you should know, or reasonably should know, that your conduct:

  • is likely to cause reasonable fear of material harm to the physical health, safety or property of the targeted person or their respective immediate family of an acquainted third party; or
  • based in following, calling, or initiating communication or contact with the target person, his or her immediate family or an acquainted third party and you cause material harm to their mental or emotional health and you previously and clearly were advised to cease contact; or
  • is likely to cause your target to reasonably fear for his or her career, business or employment because you have called, initiated or appeared at your target’s place of business and you previously and clearly were advised to cease such conduct.

As reflected above, the laws do not mandate that you actually cause the person material harm or the loss of their job, but merely that your behavior is likely to cause a reasonable fear of the same. Further, for the purpose of following a person as reflected in the second bullet, your following need not be in person. The law specifically allows for unauthorized tracking devices to satisfy the “following” element.

Penalties and Punishment

While not required by law, a judge can sentence you upon conviction to up to ninety days in a local or city jail. So, if you are convicted in New York City, Westchester or Rockland, for example, you would serve out your time on Rikers Island, the Westchester County Jail or the Rockland County Jail respectively. In lieu of incarceration, a court could require that you serve a term of probation, complete community service or condition your disposition on some form of treatment. Additionally, you should expect that an Order of Protection will be issued in favor of a protected party or parties.


The simplest example is probably what most people think of when they think of this crime - repeatedly following another person around public places and/or calling or contacting that person repeatedly over a period of time for no legitimate reason, especially when that other person has previously told the stalker to stop contacting them. It makes no difference if you are friends, former lovers, business associates or complete strangers.

Related Offenses

Stalking can be the sole charge on a criminal court complaint, but it is not atypical to see it alongside other allegations including Assault, Menacing, Aggravated Harassment and other offenses that are defined as Violent Crimes or merely are violent in their general perception.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

While there are countless “other issues” involving a Fourth Degree Stalking arrest in New York that you and your lawyer can and should address, know that at your arraignment a judge will issue a Restraining Order and the violation of such an order can result in either a misdemeanor or felony arrest for Criminal Contempt. Further, because any degree is a victim crime, expect that the prosecution will ask for some amount of bail especially if your conduct involves Domestic Violence allegations.

Because any potential defense is evidence and fact specific, protecting yourself in the face of and against this crime is not only about the allegations themselves, but about managing the complex issues and situation as a whole. Maybe there is an identity issue or some other problem linking you to the ongoing behavior that the prosecution cannot overcome. Maybe that is not an issue at all but instead you were never advised to stop your behavior. While preparing for arguments at trial – and resolving the case well before it reaches this posture –is certainly critical, so is ensuring your liberty during the pendency of the case and avoiding meritless re-arrests alleging violations of Orders of Protection.

Whether you are the subject of an investigation or arrest alleging the violative and aggressive behavior that is the foundation of Stalking or you are the victim of the same conduct seeking legal advocacy to put an end to your abuse, the criminal lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Saland Law possess the knowledge and experience you need to handle your New York City or Hudson Valley case.

Call our defense lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at 212.312.7129 or contact us online today.

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