What is the Difference Between Felony and Misdemeanor Stalking? PC 646.9

April 24, 2023

Stalking is a criminal offense that involves repeatedly following, harassing, or threatening another person in a way that causes them to feel fearful or distressed. Under California Penal Code 646.9, stalking can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.

The main difference between felony and misdemeanor stalking is the severity of the crime and the potential consequences if convicted. Felony stalking is considered to be a more serious offense and is punishable by harsher penalties, including a longer prison sentence and higher fines. Misdemeanor stalking, on the other hand, is considered to be a less serious offense and is punishable by less severe penalties, including a shorter prison sentence and lower fines.

To be charged with felony stalking under PC 646.9, the prosecution must prove that the defendant engaged in a pattern of conduct that included the following, harassing, or threatening the alleged victim and that the alleged victim was placed in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family. Examples of conduct that could result in a felony stalking charge include repeatedly calling or texting the victim, showing up at the victim’s home or place of work, making threats of violence, or damaging the alleged victim’s property.

In contrast, to be charged with misdemeanor stalking under California Penal Code 646.9, the prosecution must prove that the defendant engaged in conduct that was intended to place the victim in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family, but that did not involve a pattern of conduct.

If convicted of felony stalking, a defendant can face a maximum sentence of up to five years in state prison and a maximum fine of $1,000. Additionally, if the alleged victim was a current or former romantic partner, the defendant could be subject to a 10-year restraining order because it would be a form of domestic violence.

If convicted of misdemeanor stalking, a defendant can face a maximum sentence of up to one year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Additionally, if the victim was a current or former romantic partner, the defendant could be subject to a five-year restraining order.

It’s important to note that both felony and misdemeanor stalking are considered “wobbler” offenses in California, meaning that they can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the discretion of the prosecutor. Factors that could influence the decision to charge a defendant with a felony or misdemeanor include the severity of the conduct, the defendant’s criminal history, and the victim’s level of fear.

In both cases, the prosecution must prove that the defendant engaged in conduct that placed the alleged victim in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family, but the difference between felony and misdemeanor stalking is the level of conduct and the alleged victim’s level of fear. It’s crucial for anyone charged with stalking to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help them understand the charges against them and the potential consequences if convicted.

Contact Us for Help in Southern California

If you’re being accused of stalking under PC 646.9, then call the Law Offices of John D. Rogers today. Contact us to schedule a free confidential consultation to discuss your options. Attorney John D. Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. He routinely represents clients charged with stalking throughout southern California.  

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