Criminal Defense Attorney in Miami Defending the Rights of the Accused
Harassment is one of many “catch-all” crimes. Like disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, it has been intentionally designed to be vague in order to encompass a wide variety of behaviors. This makes it a favorite tool of prosecutors. Often it will be tacked onto a series of other charges in order to act as a bargaining chip during plea negotiations. But harassment – like any other crime – can carry significant and permanent penalties in the event of a conviction. It is therefore essential to seek the advice of an experienced criminal attorney any time you or a loved one faces charges of harassment. Call (305) 615-1285 for a free phone consultation with the experienced Miami criminal defense attorney at Stroleny Law, P.A. He is highly skilled in defending criminal charges in courts all across Florida.
What is Harassment?
According to Section 784.048 of the Florida Statutes, “harass” means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose. Harassment, following and cyberstalking are also defined as stalking under this statute. Stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor when a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses or cyberstalks another person. If this behavior is coupled with a credible threat toward the victim, the crime is classified as aggravated stalking and becomes a third-degree felony.
As you can see, these definitions leave a lot of room for interpretation. One person’s idea of “substantial emotional distress” will almost certainly be different than another’s. A similar problem arises with defining a “legitimate purpose.” This, too, can be decided by the whims of a particular jury, or the individual jurors that happen to be selected for a specific jury panel. This ambiguity is why it is so important to be represented by an experienced criminal defence attorney in Miami when facing charges of harassment.
The Facts About Cyberstalking
As computers and smart devices become more and more prevalent in daily life, the laws are catching up. Statutes are being rewritten in every state to acknowledge the new ways in which the internet can be used to commit crimes. Cyberstalking in one such example. In years past, stalking was limited to actual contact with the victim (such as driving by his or her house, sending unwanted mail, or making telephone calls). Now, of course, it is possible to harass a person anytime with the use of a smart device. Section 784.048 has thus been amended to define cyberstalking as engaging in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose. Many forms of cyberbullying fit within this definition. Prosecutors have and will continue to charge cyberbullying as a crime of harassment.
How Prosecutors Use Harassment Charges as a Bargaining Chip
A prosecutor will often file multiple charges against a defendant based upon a single incident. The prosecutor often does not intend to get convictions on all of the charged offenses: rather, he or she intends to engage in plea negotiations, and offer to drop the lesser charges if the defendant pleads guilty to the most serious offense (or offenses). A common example of this strategy is charging a defendant with both DUI and reckless driving. The defendant could be convicted of both (as driving under the influence is undoubtedly reckless). Instead, the prosecutor wants the criminal defense attorney to agree that the defendant will plead guilty to DUI and the prosecutor will drop the reckless driving charge.
Harassment charges are often used in a similar manner. In a domestic violence case, the defendant might be guilty of a serious offense such as battery, endangerment, or child abuse. In such a case, the prosecutor will often add less serious charges (such as disorderly conduct) in order to secure a guilty plea to the serious charges. Harassment, too, is a fairly generic offense that can often apply to a domestic violence situation. A defendant may, therefore, choose to plead guilty to the serious offense in order to avoid being convicted of harassment. This strategy has the added benefit of helping the defendant avoid lengthy prison terms for multiple charges. This will help the defendant have a better chance at making a fresh start with his or her life on a shorter timeline.
This “bargaining chip” strategy can work well for defendants who face a high likelihood of being convicted at trial. However, it is not appropriate in every case. It takes an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine whether you do in fact face a high risk of conviction at trial. Many times a prosecutor – especially a zealous young prosecutor – will charge an offense too seriously or add on too many lesser offenses that do not fit the situation. In this case, it is not advisable to agree to plead guilty in order to get rid of the harassment charges. Some charges must be brought to a jury to prevent a defendant from having his or her rights adjudicated by an adverse prosecutor. An experienced criminal defense attorney in Miami will know exactly what legal strategy is appropriate for your particular situation, and fight to protect your legal rights throughout the criminal case proceedings.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Miami Harassment Defense Attorney
Don’t face harassment charges on your own – let the experienced Miami criminal defense attorney at Stroleny Law, P.A. protect your constitutional rights at all stages of criminal proceedings. He is highly experienced in protecting the legal rights of defendants in state and federal courts across the state of Florida. Call (305) 615-1285 for a free phone consultation as soon as possible. The sooner you call, the better protected your legal rights will be. You can also contact the firm through the online contact form.
Stroleny Law P.A. handles a variety of criminal law cases, so call now if you have any questions.