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Is Stalking a Crime in California?

Having a stalker is a serious fear for many people. It is common to hear horror stories about a stalker following a person around, harassing them, making them fear for their life or feel unsafe even in their own home. Having a stalker is scary and unnerving but what exactly counts as stalking and is it a crime? Continue reading for more information on the specifics of a stalking situation and the associated penalties. If you require legal representation during a stalking case, an experienced Red Bluff criminal lawyer can offer advice and defend you in a court of law.

What is Stalking?

Every state will have a different definition of what constitutes stalking. Under California state law it is illegal to follow, harass, and threaten someone. There are two things that must be proven for a situation to be considered stalking.

To be convicted of stalking you must have 1. willfully and maliciously harassed or repeatedly followed another person and 2. you must have made a threat against the person, making them fear for their own safety or their family’s safety.

Some examples of situations that are considered stalking are as follows.

  • Following a person
  • Collecting an excessive amount of information about the person
  • Sending unsolicited messages to the person, including text messages, phone calls, emails, etc.
  • Sending unsolicited or unwanted gifts to the person
  • Damaging a person’s property
  • Spying or monitoring the person either in person or virtually
  • Continuously driving by the person’s home, work, school, etc.

Any of the above are forms of stalking because of their malicious intent. A person who is aware of any of the above will surely fear for their safety and wonder if their stalker would cause them physical harm.

What Are the Penalties for Stalking in California?

Stalking is a serious crime, so the penalties associated with it are appropriately severe. Stalking is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the severity of the situation. There are also different charges for a stalking situation that spans over multiple states. The following are the standard penalties for varying stalking charges.


  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Up to 1 year of imprisonment in a county jail


  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Up to 5 years of imprisonment in a state jail

Felony interstate stalking:

  • Severe fines of an undetermined amount
  • Up to 5 years of imprisonment in a federal prison

The true consequences you will face will vary depending on the details of your circumstances, as well as your prior criminal history. If the victim has a restraining order against you it could add one to three years to your sentencing.

California has what is known as a “Three Strikes” rule. Under this law, any person convicted of three violent or serious felony charges will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Stalking is one of the crimes that fall under the “Three Strikes” law.