Accused of Stalking? Understanding California Stalking Laws


In the state of California, stalking is a serious crime that is not taken lightly. If you have been charged with stalking another person, it is critical that you understand the California laws around stalking so you can prepare your best defense. 

Because law enforcement considers the crime a punishable offense, you must take any accusations of stalking seriously. Consult with a criminal defense attorney who has experience working in the San Diego courts and has a deep understanding of the law. Attorney Joni Eisenstein will review your case to identify your best defense for your specific situation. 

The Definition of Stalking Explained 

Most people think they know what stalking means; however, there are some complexities to the law that should be considered if you are facing a stalking charge. Under Penal Code 646.9 PC, stalking is defined as: 

“Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking…” 

Let’s dive deeper into the different elements of the crime so you can develop a better understanding of how you can prepare a defense. 

Harrasses: “engages in a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.”

Course of Conduct: “two or more acts occurring over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”

Credible Threat: “a verbal or written threat, including that performed through the use of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family.” 

Defending Against a Stalking Charge 

Under the California law, behavior can be considered stalking if it is willful, malicious harassment that occurs more than one time and poses a credible threat to another individual. The prosecutor must prove these elements in order to gain a conviction against you. 

Your defense attorney will review the facts of your case to determine if any of these elements are missing in your case. There are some situations to which the law does not apply, such as labor picketing. 

Penalties for a Stalking Conviction 

Stalking is considered a wobbler offense because it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A judge can decide depending on the factors in the case and a defendant’s criminal history. Misdemeanor convictions can carry up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. For second offenses and more serious stalking charges, you could be looking at hefty fines and up to four years in jail.  

Get Help Fighting Your Stalking Charges  

If you are facing stalking charges in California, call the Law Office of Joni Eisenstein today. Oceanside Attorney Joni Eisenstein will review your case to help you determine your best defense. With over 25 years of experience, she will competently guide you through the legal process and help you fight for your freedom. 

Contact our law office today at 760-721-3161 for your free consultation with Criminal Defense Attorney Joni Eisenstein.