Third Degree Stalking: NY Penal Law 120.50

It happens to celebrities – basketball players, actresses, singers. It happens in the Domestic Violence context – wives, husbands, former girlfriends. And make no mistake, it can happen to you or you could be the defendant wrongfully arrested and accused. However it may occur and by whatever means the criminal law is violated, Stalking crimes are vigorously investigated and severely punished in New York by law enforcement from the police to District Attorneys. Have no misgivings. If you are charged with Third Degree Stalking, Penal Law 120.50, or any section of this statute in NYC or elsewhere, arm yourself with the best attorney suited for your case and prepare yourself for a potentially long legal battle in the justice system.

Definitions and Elements

Penal Law 120.50, like all degrees of Stalking, is rooted in the commission of the lesser Penal Law 120.45. What raises the severity and level of the charge is generally one or more aggravating factors. The factors that will elevate a charge to Third Degree include:

  • You stalk at least three people in three or more separate events, and you have not been convicted for any of this misconduct; or
  • In the prior ten years you were already convicted of certain specified crimes targeting the same victim or immediate family member including, but not limited to, Third Degree Assault, Second Degree Aggravated Harassment, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, or any statutorily defined “violent crime;” or
  • You intentionally engage in a course of behavior with the intent to harass or annoy a particular person. As a result of this conduct you cause your victim a reasonable fear that he or she will sustain a physical or serious physical injury. Alternatively, whether or not it occurs, your actions must cause a reasonable fear in this person that they will be kidnapped, unlawfully imprisoned, killed or be the victim of a sexual offense. This reasonable fear extends not just to your target, but a member of their immediate family; or
  • You commit solely the crime of Stalking in the Fourth and you were convicted of the same within the preceding ten years regardless of whomever the victim was in that case.
Penalties and Punishment

The sentence for this class “A” misdemeanor is the most severe of any misdemeanor offense and is punishable by up to one year in local jail. Other possibilities include two or three years of probation, a conditional discharge, fines, restitution, community service and/or surcharges.

Example and Hypothetical Scenario

Although there are various subsections of this crime, you would likely violate the law if you pursue your ex-girlfriend by calling her at work, sending her text messages, showing up at her apartment and doing so in any relative degree of frequency. Additionally, some of your texts threaten harm, tell her to “watch out,” or reference violent thoughts.

Related Offenses and Collateral Issues

Probably one of the more common associated crimes is Second Degree Aggravated Harassment, but other offenses from Menacing to Assault are not atypical. Whether or not theses other laws are violated, if you are a victim of this of these offenses and your harasser is a family member or intimate partner, current or past, you can potentially file a petition in Family Court for an Order of Protection without the arrest of your stalker.

Additional concerns for an accused other than incarceration, a permanent record for Stalking will also lead to immigration consequences and ramifications to professional licensure.

Potential Defenses

In theory, there are countless defenses available to you and your defense counsel. Did your conduct reasonably cause fears of a physical injury or serious physical injury? Did you have the intent to harass or were you merely trying to convey a legitimate message? Irrespective of your particular defense, you can protect your rights, freedom from imprisonment, and good name if you take the right steps and set your defense into motion at the earliest possible time to prepare for bail, Orders of Protection and any other allegations while securing the evidence you need to succeed.

Your Case, Your Defense, Your Future

Give yourself the tools to investigate and identify your best defense. Prepare yourself for whatever accusation may be hurled at you by either a genuine victim or a complainant who may have a nefarious and alternative agenda other than the truth. Let the criminal defense lawyers and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC use their experience, knowledge and advocacy as your shield and sword to protect you and your family from a Stalking accusation in New York City, the Hudson Valley or wherever you need our service.

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

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