Stalking Charges in Massachusetts
Stalking is characterized as the following behavior, as defined in Massachusetts law:
- Willfully and maliciously engaging in conduct that seriously alarms or annoys a specific person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress; and
- Making threats with the intent to place the person in fear of death or bodily injury.
The threatening conduct may be written or verbal and includes mail, phone calls, email and other internet communications, text messages, and other instant messages.
Requirements for Conviction
In order to secure a conviction, the prosecution will need to prove that:
- The defendant, over a period of time, knowingly engaged in a pattern of conduct or a series of acts, involving at least three incidents, directed at the alleged victim.
- That those acts were of a nature that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.
- That the defendant’s acts did cause the alleged victim to become seriously alarmed or annoyed.
- That the defendant took those actions willfully and maliciously. An act is “willful” if it is done with intent, and not a mistake or an accident. An act is done with “malice” if the defendant’s conduct was intentional and without justification or mitigation, and any reasonable person would have foreseen the actual effect on the alleged victim.
- That the defendant also made a threat with the intention of placing the alleged victim in imminent fear of death or bodily injury.
Each of these elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are convicted of stalking, you face a state prison sentence of up to five years, or alternatively, a fine up to $1,000 or imprisonment in a house of correction for up to two and a half years, or both.
If a defendant is charged with stalking and in violation of protective order, the punishment is a jail or state prison term for a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years. When sentencing a defendant for stalking in violation of a restraining order, the judge has no discretion to impose a sentence of anything less than one year of imprisonment.
If a defendant commits a repeat offense, he or she faces a mandatory minimum of two years or a maximum of ten years in jail or prison.
Further Facts & Considerations
Stalking charges often come with the application of a restraining order or harassment prevention order. In addition, criminal harassment is a “lesser included” charge, meaning that the charges share most of the same elements, although stalking is a felony and criminal harassment is a misdemeanor.
If you are facing stalking charges, call us today at 781-797-0555 for a free telephone consultation.