Not Always A Happy Valentine : Stalking, Tresspasing & PFA
It’s Valentine’s Day and many will celebrate it with gifts, flowers and other items to their significant others. It’s usually a great day and opportunity to maybe spend a little more time with a person whom you care about. Some, however, take it too far and pursue people who don’t want appreciate the attention, time and energy spent on them. While this could start off as simply an aggressive courting style it can result in criminal charges if it goes to far
What is Stalking?
Stalking in Pennsylvania is defined as a course of conduct that places another in reasonable fear of bodily injury or cause substantial emotional distress in that person. This isn’t limited to simply following a person around but also includes a variety of communications to the victim. Stalking is a misdemeanor of the first degree in Pennsylvania, unless the person has been previously convicted of it against same victim or the defendant has been convicted of any crime of violence involving the same victim, or his or her family/household; then it’s a felony of the 3rd degree.The prosecution in a stalking case, like any criminal charge, must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Some of these cases do, however, result in alternative dispositions through pre-trial program. In addition to the stalking charge, a person could also face trespassing charges. You may also want to check out my article on terroristic threats
Like stalking, criminal trespass can be a felony or a misdemeanor charge depending upon the circumstances. Trespass is a felony of the second or third degree based on the level of force used to enter the premises (break-ins are felonies of the second degree while all other types of entry are felonies of the third degree).
It’s a misdemeanor when the individual is a “defiant trespasser” and simply entered the premises without permission or that he or she disregarded “no trespassing” or “do not enter” signs.
In addition to criminal charges, the alleged victim can seek a protection from abuse order against the individual who is their spouse, partner or significant other. I have written a previous article on this topic and encourage you to read it.
When a person files a PFA, he or she is requesting the protection of the law against the person who he/she believes is a threat to their safety. Unlike in criminal court, however, the burden of proof in these proceedings is “by the preponderance of the evidence” which is much lower than “beyond a reasonable doubt” – the standard in all criminal courts in the United States. A successful petition requires that the court find that the petitioner has demonstrated that the defendant is a threat to the person’s physical safety through an incident or a course conduct in the form of violence or threats of violence. While the court can look at a pattern, it isn’t required to obtain a PFA order.
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