With the increasing modes of electronic communication available, charges of stalking are on the rise. In Michigan, misdemeanor stalking means a series of two or more separate noncontinuous acts involving harassment of another that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested and actually causes the victim to feel that way. MCL 750.411h.
The 2 or more acts must be unconsented contact and may include any of the following:
- appearing within the sight of the victim;
- visiting the individual's workplace or residence;
- contacting the victim by telephone;
- sending mail and electronic communication to the individual.
If convicted of basic misdemeanor stalking, the penalty can be imprisonment for up to 1 year and/or a fine not to exceed $1,000.00. The punishment can increase significantly if the victim is a minor and there is a 5 year age gap. These facts turn the acts into a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.00. Misdemeanor stalking convictions can include a 5 year term of probation and court-ordered psychiatric treatment or evaluation. With texting, Facebook, Myspace, email and instant messaging, this crime can be quickly committed. Of course, as with all criminal matters, there are available defenses.
If you are charged with any type of stalking, immediately refrain from all contact with the alleged victim. Next, contact a Michigan criminal defense attorney. Your first inclination might be to explain to the police how this is just one big misunderstanding. Fight this urge to tell the authorities your side of the story. Your initial explanation should be to your lawyer. Save all of the allegedly offending communications (texts, emails, etc.) and provide a copy to your attorney. While this may seem like a petty complaint by a former friend or ex, law enforcement and the courts take it very seriously.