A Kentucky man was recently charged with first-degree stalking after a physical dispute with a woman to whom he repeatedly sent unwanted messages. He also followed her and trespassed on her property.

After telling him several times she wanted him to stop, he continued. Eventually, she called the police to her home, and they found him in a nearby wooded area.

While this case seems to be a clear-cut example of stalking, it’s not so clear in other cases.

Because stalking charges in Kentucky are serious business, relying upon the skill of a criminal defense lawyer who knows how to fight stalking charges is crucial.

What’s the Definition of Stalking in Kentucky?

According to Kentucky law, stalking is the “intentional course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously annoys, intimidates or harasses, and which serves no legitimate purpose.”

In many instances, stalking charges can be the result of a balancing act gone wrong.

For example, when an interest in someone becomes an obsession the person can feel threatened.

Common behavior associated with stalking includes:

  • Continued watching or following the victim
  • Repeatedly sending unwanted communication (mail, email, phone calls, etc.) to the victim, and
  • Vandalizing the victim’s property or loitering nearby.

As you can tell, the legal aspects of stalking are very broad. Even when you have good intentions, the person of interest may misread your actions. In such cases, a criminal defense lawyer can be invaluable in setting the record straight and clearing your name in court.

What is the Punishment for Stalking in Kentucky?

There are two categories for stalking in the Bluegrass State: first degree and second degree.

Stalking in the First Degree.

Considered a felony and punishable by jail time of up to five years. First-degree stalking occurs when someone stalks another person and threatens them with serious physical injury, death or sexual contact. Stalking is also first degree when it violates a protective order issued by the court.

Other aspects of a case that will probably lead to first-degree stalking charges include a pending court complaint involving the same victim and defendant; the defendant being found guilty of stalking the same victim within the previous five years; or the defendant using a weapon while stalking.

Stalking in the Second Degree

Carries a jail sentence of up to one year. A person may face second-degree stalking charges if they make the victim feel a threat of sexual contact, physical harm, or death while being stalked.

Second-degree stalking is a misdemeanor.

For a charge of stalking to hold up in court, it must be proven that a reasonable person would feel threatened in a similar situation.

What are the Defenses to Charges of Stalking?

First, if you feel you may be investigated or eventually charged with stalking, there are several things you need to do immediately.

  • End any and all communication with the person.
  • Secure anything that may be considered evidence and select a criminal defense attorney to represent you – just in case things escalate.
  • Do not speak with law enforcement about the issue without your attorney being present.

Remember, merely being charged with stalking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re guilty of it.

Each case is different and a defense strategy will be built around the unique circumstances of your situation. Here is a brief list of successful strategies for defending against charges of stalking.

  • The person making the claim is merely trying to gain control. Perhaps they are angling for control in a custody case or are bent on revenge for a broken relationship.
  • Your actions were completely innocent and misinterpreted by the victim.
  • You were mistakenly identified as the offender.

Interestingly, a recent University of Kentucky study provided insight into how juries may rule in stalking cases that go to court.

In a hypothetical case with repeated contact from a man towards a woman, female participants were more likely to vote for conviction than their male counterparts.

Why the difference? The study’s lead author said, “The more you identify with the victim, the more likely you are to say ‘guilty.’ [Likewise], the more you can identify with the defendant, the more likely you are to say, ‘not guilty.’”

The Key Takeaway

Although your actions may have been completely innocent or blown out of proportion, you need to take stalking accusations seriously. After all, if proven, they can put you behind bars and ruin your life.

If you’ve been charged with stalking or suspect you may be, do not hesitate to contact a criminal defense attorney. The sooner you secure legal representation, the faster a defense strategy can be put in place.