Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stalking With the Best Intentions in Florida

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the recent case of a St. Petersburg father Stalking his daughter.


Issue:

A 59-year-old father was recently arrested on misdemeanor Stalking charges arising from an incident of following his 19-year-old daughter.  The St. Petersburg Police state that it is a clear case of stalking.  Meanwhile, the father contends that his daughter was troubled and he was simply concerned for her safety.




Why This Matters To You:

This case serves as an example of how there are always two sides to a story.  On one hand, the St. Petersburg Police arrest who they think to be a suspicious and potentially dangerous person who was found staking out a women’s shelter.  The father was found with a video camera to detail his daughter’s travels, equipment to disguise his appearance, and unfortunately, a gun (which under the proper circumstances is not illegal).  On the other hand, the father asserts that his daughter was on a bad path and that he was looking out for her wellbeing.  While this is an extreme example, it illustrates that there can often be a reasonable explanation for behavior that law enforcement may label as Stalking.  Even Pinellas Circuit Judge Peter Ramsberger stated at the court hearing that, “I’ve got no doubt that dad loves his daughter and wants what’s best for his daughter and thinks she’s making bad decisions.”

Stalking is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1000 fine.  Aggravated Stalking carries even harsher penalties as it is a third degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

In many Stalking cases there are potential defenses that may be utilized to reduce the charges, or even have the charges dropped altogether:

·         Victim Recantation
·         Lack of Intent
·         Alibi
·         Mistaken Identity
·         Failure to Read Miranda Warnings


What To Do Next:



If You Are Arrested For Stalking:

·         Don't speak to the police - ask to have an attorney present.
·         Don't give a written statement – again, ask to have an attorney present.
·         Contact an attorney immediately.

It is equally important to engage an attorney quickly as you have a very narrow window of time between when you are arrested and when the State Attorney’s Office makes a decision to file a criminal charge against you.  Hiring an attorney immediately to negotiate on your behalf with the State Attorney’s Office gives you the best chance of avoiding criminal charges for Stalking.

If you have been arrested for Stalking and/or Domestic Violence in St. Petersburg or Clearwater, Pinellas County, or Tampa, Hillsborough County, or Bradenton, Manatee, Polk, Pasco, or Sarasota Counties, FL contact a St. Petersburg Domestic Violence Attorney to discuss possible defenses that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.