Under Michigan law, stalking takes place when a person engages in willful and continuing harassment of another human being and this harassment then causes a reasonable person to feel threatened, molested, intimidated, terrorized, harassed, or frightened. The stalking charge can become aggravated stalking when the defendant willingly ignores court order, threatens to physically harm or kill a member of the victim’s family, the defendant has been previously convicted of stalking and when the victim is under 18 and the defendant is over five years older than the victim. Aggravated stalking is a serious felony charge that carries with it up to five years in prison and a massive $10,000 fine! A misdemeanor stalking charge carries with it a maximum jail sentence of one year and a fine of no more than $1,000.00.
Do not talk to the police about your aggravated stalking charges.
We have seen it over and over again! Our clients talk to police and their own words are used to make our clients look bad and more difficult to defend in court. Aggravated stalking charges are taken very seriously by all West Michigan police departments. We have found that the police also lose video and audio evidence. When our clients deny the charges, there is still a grave risk that their words are twisted and manipulated in a way that makes it more likely the person charged with aggravated stalking will be convicted.
Is Threatening Someone Illegal?
It depends. If a person threatens to hurt someone, the threat is made to a private person and the action is something that will happen in the future, then no law has been broken. However, a verbal threat that also has a behavior that causes a reasonable person to feel threatened by immediate harm, an assault has not happened and that is a misdemeanor criminal charge. An Assault is an act of threatening imminent harm and having the ability to carry out the threat. There does not need to be any physical contact.
Aggravated Stalking Defined in Michigan
MCL 750.411i clearly lays out all the elements needed for a person to be charged with this five-year felony charge. The law states:
(1) As used in this section:(a) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of 2 or more separate noncontinuous acts evidencing a continuity of purpose.(b) “Credible threat” means a threat to kill another individual or a threat to inflict physical injury upon another individual that is made in any manner or in any context that causes the individual hearing or receiving the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of another individual.
(c) “Emotional distress” means significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling. (d) “Harassment” means conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress. Harassment does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.
(e) “Stalking” means a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.
(f) “Unconsented contact” means any contact with another individual that is initiated or continued without that individual’s consent or in disregard of that individual’s expressed desire that the contact is avoided or discontinued. Unconsented contact includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:
(i) Following or appearing within the sight of that individual.
(ii) Approaching or confronting that individual in a public place or on private property. (iii) Appearing at that individual’s workplace or residence.
(iv) Entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.
(v) Contacting that individual by telephone.
(vi) Sending mail or electronic communications to that individual.
(vii) Placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.
(g) “Victim” means an individual who is the target of a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment.
(2) An individual who engages in stalking is guilty of aggravated stalking if the violation involves any of the following circumstances:
(a) At least 1 of the actions constituting the offense is in violation of a restraining order and the individual has received actual notice of that restraining order or at least 1 of the actions is in violation of an injunction or preliminary injunction.
(b) At least 1 of the actions constituting the offense is in violation of a condition of probation, a condition of parole, a condition of pretrial release, or a condition of release on bond pending appeal.
(c) The course of conduct includes the making of 1 or more credible threats against the victim, a member of the victim’s family, or another individual living in the same household as the victim.
(d) The individual has been previously convicted of a violation of this section or section 411h.
(3) Aggravated stalking is a felony punishable as follows:
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), by imprisonment for not more than 5 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.
(b) If the victim was less than 18 years of age at any time during the individual’s course of conduct and the individual is 5 or more years older than the victim, by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $15,000.00, or both.
(4) The court may place an individual convicted of violating this section on probation for any term of years, but not less than 5 years. If a term of probation is ordered, the court may, in addition to any other lawful condition of probation, order the defendant to do any of the following:
(a) Refrain from stalking any individual during the term of probation.
(b) Refrain from any contact with the victim of the offense.
(c) Be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling and, if determined appropriate by the court, to receive psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling at his or her own expense.
(5) In a prosecution for a violation of this section, evidence that the defendant continued to engage in a course of conduct involving repeated unconsented contact with the victim after having been requested by the victim to discontinue the same or a different form of unconsented contact, and to refrain from any further unconsented contact with the victim, gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that the continuation of the course of conduct caused the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.
(6) A criminal penalty provided for under this section may be imposed in addition to any penalty that may be imposed for any other criminal offense arising from the same conduct or for contempt of court arising from the same conduct.”
Elements That Must Be Proved In Court
Michigan aggravated stalking jury instructions clearly lay out what must be proven in court to convict the defendant. The prosecution has to prove each and every one of these elements in order to get a conviction.
- First, that you committed two or more “willful, separate, and noncontinuous acts of unconsented contact” with the alleged victim.
- Second, the contact would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress,
- Third, that the contact actually caused the alleged victim to suffer emotional distress
- Fourth, that the contact would cause a reasonable individual to feel any of the following ways: terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested,
- Fifth, that the contact actually caused the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested
- Sixth, the alleged act of stalking was
- committed in violation of a court order;
- committed in violation of a restraining order of which you had actual notice;
- included you making one or more credible threats against the alleged victim, a member of their family, or someone living in the same household as them; or
- the second or subsequent conviction for a Michigan stalking crime.
Defending Aggravated Stalking Charges
Attorney Shawn Haff will examine the allegations against you. Shawn will find any weakness in the case against you and use it to get you the best results possible. Shawn will make sure your reputation is restored and minimize the negative consequences against you. Shawn and his team of defense lawyers will diligently refute allegations against you that are false by showing the inconsistencies of the case presented by the prosecutor. These inconsistencies can be false allegations, flawed testimony from witnesses and victims, evidence that might be tampered and alibi defenses are the keys to winning at trial or getting a case dismissed before trial.