Washington state law is fairly clear on what actions constitute stalking, but someone can still be arrested for alleged actions that only broadly resemble the definition. A defendant might even be surprised to learn that another person is accusing them of being a stalker. Having a more thorough understanding of what constitutes stalking — and what does not — can be very helpful when facing related criminal charges.
Stalking is considered a pattern of behavior that someone is using to cause apprehension or fear in another person. This means that engaging in just one act that might be common in stalking — like leaving an unwanted present — is not actually stalking. Engaging in a few, infrequent acts might not constitute stalking either, but this can sometimes be up to interpretation.
There are many behaviors associated with stalking. Sending unwanted phone calls, emails and letters are examples of stalking, as is making unwanted phone calls. Going to places where the alleged victim might be without having a legitimate reason can also be used as an act of stalking. Stalking can even involve spreading rumors or posting information online.
First offense stalking charges are usually misdemeanors, while repeat stalking offenses are considered Class C felonies. Not only do these carry criminal consequences, but defendants also face real life consequences, such as restraining orders, lost jobs and the stigma of being labeled a stalker. However, defendants who take the time to focus on creating strong criminal defense foundations may find that it is easier to achieve the best possible outcomes for their unique situations.