Say it with us, now: criminal harassment. Stalking in Virginia is criminal harassment, first punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor. Can you be arrested, charged, and found guilty of stalking your own wife?
What is Stalking, Anyway?
Virginia provides a very precise definition of stalking in the very law — § 18.2-60.3. “Stalking; penalty” — that not only makes it illegal, but spells out the punishment, too:
“Any person … who on more than one occasion engages in conduct directed at another person with the intent to place, or when he knows or reasonably should know that the conduct places that other person in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury to that other person or to that other person’s family or household member is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
That is subjective, though: how can you know what your wife will consider conduct that makes her fearful of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury? Your best bet: if you wonder if the conduct you are about to engage in could place her in fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury, don’t do it.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
A Class 1 Misdemeanor, the mildest rebuke possible under the § 18.2-60.3 law, provides this punishment:
“For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.”
Plus, of course, you will have a criminal (not civil) record. That could put a kink in your career, and if you are in the military, could lead to a dishonorable discharge.
Fair Warning Could Earn a Felony
Stalking is not a he-said/she-said issue. The law defers to the person being stalked, and in this case, if it is your wife, you are presumed by your actions to have given evidence of your criminal culpability:
“If the person contacts or follows or attempts to contact or follow the person at whom the conduct is directed after being given actual notice that the person does not want to be contacted or followed, such actions shall be prima facie evidence that the person intended to place that other person, or reasonably should have known that the other person was placed, in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury to himself or a family or household member.”
If she warned you away once, don’t push your luck. A second offense is a Class 6 Felony:
“For Class 6 felonies, a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years, or in the discretion of the jury or the court trying the case without a jury, confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.”
In simpler terms, if you stalk, get warned, and then stalk again, you’re screwed.
We assume that most Virginia women filing charges of stalking against their husbands are separated from them. That means you are probably not living under the same roof with your wife, and you are not intersecting with her in day-to-day activities. She may even have a protective order on you.
We also assume some Virginia men lack the moral compass needed to know that they should not stalk their own wives. Still (and this is an assumption easily proven by years of legal experience), some women lack that same moral compass and are quick to assert something that is utterly false.
You can be arrested and charged with stalking, and it is a serious legal matter, and it carries real punishment. Here is how to protect yourself against charges of stalking:
- If you suspect, or can confirm, an investigation against you has been opened by law enforcement, engage the services of a family law attorney.
- Avoid communicating with your wife in person, by text, by telephone message, video, social media, regular mail, or through your children
- Never speak to law enforcement without your attorney present
- Never give or offer physical or verbal evidence without your attorney present
Your attorney will likely create a three-part defense:
- Your denial of stalking, and
- An assertion that your wife is lying, and
- An unwrapping of each event that your wife claims shows your stalking behavior
When, for example, she said you followed her to work, your attorney may deny it, claim she is either lying or wrongly identifying you as her stalker, and explain that you were in traffic heading to the grocery store on that date and at that time. But they have to back it up.
Domestic violence and protective orders from abuse are two criminal aspects to family law. The Firm For Men handles all aspects of Virginia family law, and we stand ready to protect you. We specialize in defending Virginia’s men against most types of criminal and civil actions. Contact us today or telephone our office at (757) 383-9184.