When it comes to criminal charges, stalking is a serious offense that can have far-reaching consequences. Unfortunately, people across Canada encounter the unwanted behavior of others and report harassment on a regular basis. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the definition of stalking, different forms of stalking, recognizing stalking behavior, legal consequences, building a defense, and the importance of seeking professional legal assistance from a reputable BC criminal lawyer

At Jaswal & Krueger Criminal Defence Lawyers, we have extensive experience in handling stalking cases and are committed to providing personalized defense strategies tailored to individual situations.

Defining Stalking

Conduct referred to as “stalking” can be virtually any pattern of unwanted behavior that causes fear, harassment, or intimidation in the victim. In British Columbia, stalking is defined as engaging in conduct that causes a person to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of someone known to them. 

This conduct can manifest in various forms, including physical stalking, cyberstalking, and psychological stalking. Physical stalking involves following, tracking, or surveilling the victim in person. Cyberstalking, on the other hand, occurs through electronic means such as social media or email, while psychological stalking involves engaging in behaviors that cause emotional distress and fear.

Is Stalking a Form of Criminal Harassment?

stalking concept image - woman with unknown man’s hand on her shoulder

Stalking and criminal harassment are related but distinct offenses. While stalking involves persistent and unwelcome behavior that causes fear and distress, criminal harassment encompasses a broader range of harassing conduct. Both offenses carry legal consequences and should be taken seriously.

Criminal harassment, as defined in the Criminal Code of Canada, occurs when a person knowingly engages in conduct that causes another person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of someone known to them. The conduct must also be repetitive, persistent, and unwanted. 

It encompasses persistent and harassing conduct that causes a justifiable fear for personal safety. This behavior serves no legitimate purpose and is characterized by repetition. However, it’s worth noting that a single incident can be classified as criminal harassment if it involves explicit threats, even without repetition. 

It’s important to recognize that repeatedly communicating with someone, even if undesired by the recipient, may have lawful reasons, such as debt collectors operating within regulated guidelines. However, distinguishing between lawful and prohibited conduct is crucial. Here are some examples of threatening conduct directed at someone that could be considered criminal harassment:

  • Repeatedly calling and abruptly hanging up upon answering the phone.
  • Consistently contacting you online or bombarding you with unsolicited emails.
  • Engaging in surveillance, following you, your family, or friends.
  • Leaving menacing and threatening voicemail messages.
  • Sending unwanted and unwelcome gifts.
  • Monitoring your activities or tracking your movements.
  • Threatening you, your children, family members, pets, or friends.

Legal Consequences of Stalking

Stalking offenses are taken very seriously under the Criminal Code of Canada. The relevant sections of the Code address the penalties and consequences for individuals convicted of stalking. If found guilty, the consequences can be severe, including potential imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record. 

Elements of a Criminal Harassment Conviction: Understanding the Legal Requirements

To secure a criminal harassment conviction, certain elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In general, the following requirements must be met:

  1. Harassing Behavior: The prosecution must demonstrate that the accused engaged in persistent and unwanted behavior that caused emotional distress or fear in the victim. This behavior can include stalking, repeated contact, threats, surveillance, or any actions that intrude upon the victim’s privacy or personal life.
  2. Reasonable Fear for Safety: The victim must have a legitimate reason to fear for their personal safety as a result of the accused’s actions. This fear must be objectively reasonable and based on the totality of the circumstances. The victim’s fear can stem from direct threats, a pattern of behavior, or the history of the relationship between the parties involved.
  3. Lack of Legitimate Purpose: The harassing behavior must have no legitimate purpose or justification. This means that the accused’s actions cannot be reasonably explained or justified by any lawful reason or necessity.
  4. Repetition or Overt Threats: In most cases, the harassing behavior must be persistent and occur on multiple occasions. However, a single incident may be considered criminal harassment if it involves overtly threatening conduct that instills fear in the victim.

It is important to note that intent to frighten is not a valid defense against a criminal harassment charge. Even if the accused did not intend to scare the victim, their actions can still be deemed harassing if they meet the legal criteria.

Building a Defense

When facing stalking charges, it’s crucial to understand the defense process and gather evidence to challenge the allegations. Seeking professional legal representation is essential in navigating the complexities of the legal system and ensuring a robust defense strategy. 

A Jaswal & Krueger criminal defense lawyer can provide expertise, guidance, and advocacy throughout the process.

In building a defense, gathering evidence becomes pivotal. This includes collecting and preserving any evidence that supports your innocence or casts doubt on the allegations. It may involve identifying witnesses, obtaining surveillance footage, or retrieving digital records that can help strengthen your case.

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