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What is "stalking" under Washington law?

When a Spokane resident thinks of domestic violence, they likely picture a scenario wherein one person is physically harming another. The state of Washington, however, also includes the stalking of one family or household member by another in its definition of domestic violence. Those who face allegations of stalking a household or family member may eventually find themselves facing charges of domestic violence. In order to understand these charges, it's helpful to learn how the state defines stalking behavior.

Washington's lawmakers have defined stalking as the intentional and repeated harassment or following of another individual. This must be done without any lawful authority and under circumstances that do not amount to the felony attempt of a different crime. In addition, stalking involves either the stalker's intent to harass, intimidate or scare the other individual or the stalker's knowledge that the other person is frightened, harassed or intimidated - even if the stalker did not intend to produce such feelings.

Generally, it is not a defense that the alleged stalker did not receive actual notice that the other person wanted the contact or following to stop. There are, however, other defenses to criminal charges of stalking or domestic violence. A Spokane criminal defense attorney can review potential defenses with someone accused of stalking.

Typically, stalking is classified as a gross misdemeanor. However, certain factors may place the offense into the category of a class B felony. These factors include the defendant having been previously accused of harassment of the same victim or individual named in a protective order. If the stalking itself violates an existing protective order, that too will push the offense into a felony classification. Moreover, if the alleged stalker has a prior conviction for stalking at either the misdemeanor or felony level, that will also make a subsequent charge of stalking a felony charge.

Source: Washington State Legislature, "RCW 9A.46.110 Stalking," accessed June 20, 2015

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