Maliciously contacting or visiting a person repeatedly with the intent to intimidate them or cause apprehension can lead to stalking charges under Michigan law. Although people can be accused of stalking in a variety of circumstances, most stalking charges arise out of situations involving former spouses or romantic partners, family members, or other people with close connections. A conviction for stalking can lead to jail time and fines and may impact a person’s reputation and relationships as well. If you are accused of stalking, it is smart to confer with an attorney about what defenses you may be able to put forward. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a capable Ann Arbor criminal defense lawyer who is adept at helping people protect their rights in criminal proceedings, and if you engage his services, he will fight tirelessly on your behalf. Mr. Bernstein frequently represents people accused of stalking in Ann Arbor and cities throughout Michigan.Michigan’s Stalking Law
Michigan’s Penal Code (the Code) defines stalking as an intentional course of conduct involving continuing or repeated harassment of another person. In order to constitute stalking, the actions must not only cause the victim to feel terrorized, intimidated, harassed, threatened, or frightened but must also be behavior that would inspire such emotions in a reasonable person. As few as two separate acts that demonstrate a similar purpose constitute a course of conduct.
The Code further defines harassment as behavior that includes repeatedly contacting the victim without their consent in a manner that both causes emotional distress, meaning substantial mental suffering that may require medical intervention and would cause a reasonable person to experience such distress. Acts that serve a lawful purpose or are constitutionally protected do not constitute harassment.
Any contact with the victim that is initiated without their consent or despite their express desire not to be contacted constitutes unconsented contact. Acts that represent unconsented contact include following a person, approaching them in public, or appearing in their line of sight, visiting a person’s home or work or entering property they own or occupy, contacting them by phone or sending them mail or email, or delivering something to them.
Stalking is a misdemeanor crime. People convicted of stalking may be sentenced to a year in prison, fined $1,000.00, or may face both fines and imprisonment. They may also be placed on probation for up to five years, during which they will be ordered to refrain from contacting the victim or stalking anyone else.The Prosecution’s Burden in Stalking Cases
The State bears the sole burden of proof in stalking cases, meaning that it is the only party that must offer evidence or demonstrate its position. As such, to convict a person of stalking, the State must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, the State has to establish that the defendant committed two or more deliberate, distinct, and discontinuous acts of unwanted contact with the victim. It then must demonstrate that the contact is considered stalking under both the objective and subjective tests set forth in the statute. In other words, the contact in question would cause a reasonable person to experience emotional distress and to feel terrorized, intimidated, harassed, frightened, and threatened, which are objective tests, and that the contact actually caused the victim to suffer emotional distress to feel terrorized, intimidated, harassed, frightened, and threatened, which are subjective tests. If the State fails to establish each element, the defendant should not be convicted.Speak with a Seasoned Ann Arbor Lawyer
People charged with stalking often experience a variety of emotions, including the fear that a conviction is inevitable, but with skilled legal counsel, they are often able to obtain favorable outcomes. If you are charged with stalking, it is advisable to speak to an attorney about your potential defenses. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a seasoned Ann Arbor criminal defense lawyer who is well-versed in what it takes to prevail in criminal matters, and if you engage his services, he will craft persuasive arguments on your behalf. Our office is located in Ann Arbor, and we regularly represent parties in criminal matters throughout Michigan, including cities in Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Dearborn, and Flint. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at (734) 883-9584 to set up a confidential and free meeting.