What Is Stalking?
Stalking involves conduct or a course of conduct that is meant to put someone else in fear. It is a form of harassment that occurs in many ways and is often comprised of many smaller individual acts. Stalking is most often prosecuted at the state level by state prosecutors, but stalking can become a federal charge if the correct circumstances exist. Stalking can be charged for physical acts, for acts that involve electronic communication, and if state lines are crossed while violating a protection order such as a restraining order. If you are being investigated for violating a restraining order or any related federal crimes, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately.
How Restraining Order Violations Can Lead to Federal Criminal Charges
Once state lines are crossed in the commission of any type of violation of a restraining order, then federal stalking charges can result. If the criminal activity all took place within a state and there is no activity that crosses state lines in any way, then the respective state where the alleged acts occurred would handle the prosecution of any individuals involved, not the federal government. Various activities involving domestic violence and stalking are prohibited under federal law in Chapter 110A of Title 18 of the United States Code.
How Can Violating a Restraining Order Result in a Federal Stalking Charge?
Federal law under 18 USC § 2262 explains the laws involving the interstate violation of a protection order. Some examples of activity that can lead to federal charges under this statute include:
- Traveling interstate with the intent to engage in conduct or an act that violates an existing protection order, such as a restraining order
- Causing a victim to travel interstate to avoid harm or harassment while a protection order, such as a restraining order, is in place
There are various penalties for violations of federal stalking due to interstate violations of protection orders. An individual can face up to five years in prison for violating this law in its most basic form. If the victim in the case suffers an injury or the accused used a weapon during the offense, then the maximum possible penalty increases to ten years in prison. If permanent disfigurement or life-threatening injury occurs to the victim, then the maximum possible penalty is further increased to 20 years in prison. If the victim dies as a result of the conduct, then the maximum increases to life in prison.
What Are Some Common Defenses Against a Stalking Charge?
To obtain a conviction for a stalking charge due to an interstate violation of a protection order, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you violated the terms of a restraining order in a way that affects interstate commerce. There are several defenses that may be available to you, including:
- False accusation – If you are being falsely accused of violating a protection order, then you can present evidence to show that you are not culpable. Common defenses include alibi defenses or other information to show that you are not involved.
- Lack of evidence – If there is not enough evidence to connect you to the alleged violation of a protection order, then this can be used as a defense.
- Not interstate commerce – if the violation allegedly occurred within a state and did not cross a state border or cause the victim to cross a state border to avoid harm, then the activity did not affect interstate commerce.
- Lack of Intent – If you did not have the intent to violate a protection order, then this can be used as a defense. If you mistakenly violated a protection order, then this can show your lack of intent.
If you are charged with a crime, then an experienced criminal defense attorney can review your case to help determine what your best defenses are. The facts and circumstances of your case will help determine your defense strategy.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
If you are facing an interstate violation of a protection order in New Jersey, then your case will be processed in the United States District Court. There is one federal district court in New Jersey, and cases heard in this district can be heard at one of three different federal district court locations. If you are not happy with a decision or verdict in your case in a federal district court, then you have the ability to appeal the ruling to a higher court. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is the court to which appeals from New Jersey Federal District Courts are typically made. The only remaining appellate court is the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court chooses which cases it will hear by granting certiorari.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you are facing federal criminal prosecution, then make sure that you have a criminal defense attorney on your side who has experience defending criminal cases in federal court. This experience can help you and your attorney understands the law and how it affects your case. An attorney can negotiate a plea deal or try your case before a jury if you choose. Remember, it is always your choice to accept a plea, but your attorney can guide you and advise you. Contact us today!
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm Is the Right Choice
If you are being prosecuted federally for stalking, then make sure that you speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped people defend countless criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn how we can help you.