What to Know When Facing a Felony Criminal Stalking Charge in Colorado

Facing a felony criminal stalking charge is serious business and not something the state of Colorado takes lightly. Whether the stalking charge is stand-alone or tied to domestic violence or other issues, it's crucial to have a good criminal defense attorney on your side. That way, you have the legal help you need to fight the charges and potentially reduce their impact on your future. But the most important aspect of addressing the charges is knowing what you're really facing.

Since felony stalking is a serious charge, it's not something you can take lightly. A Colorado criminal defense lawyer can look at the actual charges and the facts of the case and then give you information and advice on potential next steps. You may have some options to consider, or there may be only one way forward that's actually realistic for your case. Either way, you need the right information from a trusted legal professional. Here are some things to consider about felony stalking in Colorado.

Felony Stalking Charges Are Very Serious

Colorado law and the prosecutors who work with it take felony stalking very seriously. You should do the same if you're charged with this offense. Getting an attorney right away—one that's worked on these kinds of cases before—should be your goal. Don't wait because prosecutors will begin building a case against you right away. You should be sure you're prepared with a good defense, and getting an attorney at the last minute won't help you do that. A strong defense will take some time.

Felony stalking involves repeated threats, contact, statements, and conduct that causes a reasonable person emotional distress. They may feel as though you're a credible threat to their safety and well-being, which may endanger them from a mental-health standpoint, as well as making them fear for their physical safety. Whether the person being stalked is someone you've been in a relationship with, a former coworker, or someone else, the feelings they have regarding interaction with you may be significant.

One of the reasons felony stalking in Colorado is taken so seriously is because it's one of the crimes prosecutors say often leads to violence. Whether that was a risk in your particular case or not, the prosecution will likely try to make it appear that violence was imminent. You need a good attorney on your side who can help shed light on the facts of the case and tell your side of things properly. That can raise your chances of successfully fighting the charges, although there are no guarantees.

Part of the reason criminal stalking penalties are so high in Colorado is to nip things in the bud and deter the chances of violence that often come along with this type of behavior. If you've been charged with felony stalking, you will need a serious and strong criminal defense attorney to work with you through your case and try to protect you from a conviction that will remain on your record forever.

The Details of "Vonnie's Law"

The felony stalking law enacted in Colorado in 2012 is called Vonnie's Law. At the time of its creation, the Legislature wanted to find a way to reduce the chances that stalking would become something more dangerous. Since many stalking cases lead to violent acts, the goal of deterrence was a significant focus. To increase the chances of someone being deterred from committing a violent act, the law created harsh penalties for anyone convicted of felony stalking in the state.

As defined by Colorado state law, stalking is not about rudeness or annoyance. It's not focused on one ill-advised action or interaction or a comment made in passing. Instead, the focus is on a pattern of conduct. For someone to be arrested for this crime, there needs to be repeated commentary and interaction instead of a one-off experience. Victims of stalking are afraid because of the repeated nature of the stalking and what they fear may happen to them next.

Statutes Address the Requirements

The Colorado Revised Statutes detail three specific elements required for a felony criminal stalking charge. The first of these is that the stalker is a credible threat. Some people who harass others, for example, may be guilty of things like criminal mischief. They may play pranks or damage property, which can be frightening, but they not be viewed by law enforcement as a credible threat to the victim's health, safety, or well-being. Of course, it depends on the context of the mischief, as well. 

There have to be statements or physical acts that make the victim fear for their safety or suffer serious emotional distress through the various ways the stalker chooses to interact with them. Stalking can lead to domestic violence, assault, child abuse, and more, so it's very common for a victim to be afraid when the stalker continues to contact them. The conduct of a stalker does more than just make the victim feel uncomfortable, and many stalking victims live in fear for a long time.

However, it's not just credible threats considered when it comes to stalking; it's also possible to go to jail for felony stalking even without a credible threat if the conduct is severe enough to cause extreme emotional stress to the victim. The severity of the conduct is the second part of the statute and involves repeated unwanted contact. That includes approaching, following, contacting, or even placing a person or a member of their family under surveillance, or repeatedly trying to engage or interact with them.

The ongoing level of conduct may be enough for a felony stalking charge in Colorado based on emotional distress inflicted on the victim, even if you don't pose a credible threat under the law. Causing emotional distress may be enough if a reasonable person would be emotionally distressed by the conduct and repeated contact. People have the right to be left alone, and if you repeatedly refuse to leave someone alone to the point of affecting their mental health, you may find yourself charged with felony stalking.

Penalties for Felony Stalking in Colorado

Stalking is more than just a felony in Colorado. It's also considered an extraordinary risk crime. That means it can involve a lengthy jail sentence. For a first-time offense, it's a class 5 felony. That can mean up to five years in prison with two years of parole afterward and a fine of as much as $100,000. A second conviction within seven years is a class 4 felony and could result in up to 10 years in prison followed by a three-year parole period. Fines can be as much as $500,000.

Stalking in violation of a court order is also a class 4 felony, and it must be taken seriously. The right Colorado criminal defense attorney can help if you've been charged with this kind of crime. Colorado stalking laws are serious because the crime itself is serious. But you should also have a chance to make your case and have adequate legal representation to help you move through the court system and get the best possible outcome for your future. It may be possible to put the entire ordeal behind you.

The Right Legal Help Is Extremely Important

No matter what form of communication may have been used to interact with a stalking victim, it's important to work with a professional who can prepare a strong defense for your case. Stalking in Colorado is a very serious matter. It often relates to issues with the sex offender registry, sexual assault, and other criminal law concerns, including false imprisonment. Prosecutors take it so seriously because they're trying to stop those additional issues before they start.

If a victim is worried about their own safety or the safety of someone they love, they may pursue a case against you. In that case, you need a criminal law attorney who can work with you on Colorado stalking charges. The right criminal lawyer can help you fight accusations regarding the crime of stalking, so you can have your day in court and hopefully see your case dismissed. You have the right to be heard and present your side of the story.

Whether you're being accused of stalking a person directly or interacting with that person’s immediate family, there are practice areas of the law Colorado has in place that focus on sex crimes, stalking charges, and similar concerns. Anyone who repeatedly follows approaches contacts or otherwise interacts with someone against their will could be charged with stalking. There are also issues related to computer crime, being at the same place as another person, or following their motor vehicle, which can make prosecutors take notice.

Simply ending up at the same places doesn't generally make a person a stalker, and a one-time interaction also doesn't qualify. Action or repeated conduct is what the prosecutor will be considering. Whether you had places under surveillance will also matter, as will any threat to another person, and whether there was a restraining order already in place. If the prosecutor can show you have caused a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress, there may be grounds for a criminal case you'll need to fight against. With the right attorney, you have a better chance of being successful in your fight to reduce or eliminate felony stalking charges.


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