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Stalking and Criminal Harassment
Stalking is a crime under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 43.How Does the District Attorney Prove Stalking in Massachusetts?
To convict a defendant of stalking, the prosecutor must prove the following five elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant, over a period of time, engaged in a knowing series of acts or pattern of conduct, involving at least three incidents directed at the specific alleged victim.
- The defendant’s acts would cause substantial emotional distress for a reasonable person.
- The defendant’s acts actually caused that alleged victim to become seriously annoyed or alarmed.
- The defendant committed those acts maliciously and willfully. A willful act is one done intentionally, but it does not require that the defendant intended the consequences. A mistake or accident is not a willful act. A malicious act is an intentional act committed without justification. If an act is malicious, any reasonable person would foresee the harm to the alleged victim. Malice does not require cruelty, revenge, hostility or intent to cause harm.
- The defendant made a threat intending to place the alleged victim in imminent fear of bodily injury or death. This element is interpreted like the common law definition of assault.
If you are convicted of stalking, you face a state prison sentence of up to five years, or alternatively, a fine up to $1,000 or imprisonment in a house of correction for up to two and one half years or both.What is Criminal Harassment in Massachusetts?
Criminal harassment is prohibited by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 43A. Before a defendant can be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor has to prove the following four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant, over a period of time, engaged in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts directed at the specific alleged victim on three separate occasions. Such conduct includes use of mail, e-mail, fax or telephone.
- To satisfy this element, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended that the alleged victim know that each of these acts was directed at him.
- The defendant’s acts actually caused the alleged victim to be seriously alarmed.
- The defendant committed those acts willfully and maliciously. The same definitions of willfully and maliciously from above apply.
If you are convicted of criminal harassment, you face up to two and one half years imprisonment in a house of correction or a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by up to two and one half years in a house of correction or up to ten years in state prison.Stalking, Criminal Harassment, Restraining Orders and Harassment Prevention Orders
There is a strong connection between the crimes of criminal harassment, stalking and restraining orders. The allegation of the crime often prompts the police of a victim witness advocate from the district attorney’s office to recommend the complainant file a restraining order. The hearing on the restraining order will occur at the time of arraignment so make sure you have hired a lawyer to help prevent the issuance of this order. Your lawyer can challenge the allegations made by the complainant at this hearing. This challenge might result in a dismissal of the underlying complaint.
If you have been charged with this offense, call the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman at 617-263-6800 or contact us online today.