Stalking in the Fourth Degree: New York Penal Law § 120.45

They key phrase to remember when considering a stalking charge in New York is "course of conduct." All the charges related to stalking involve a person engaging in a course of conduct which negatively affects another person, and the degree or severity of the repeated actions dictates how serious the charges against that person are.

A person can be found guilty of Stalking in the Fourth Degree if they engage in a course of conduct which is likely to cause reasonable fear of material harm to physical or mental health, or threatens a person's employment. There is no requirement of any physical contact by the defendant, and there is no threshold for how many separate acts constitute a course of conduct: the determination is made based on the circumstances of each case.

This offense tends to occur in domestic cases where one party constantly calls, emails, texts, or posts on social media about their partner or ex-partner. It is important to remember that the intent of the person initiating the contact is irrelevant. Frequently, persons charged with stalking do not perceive what they do as harassing or menacing at all, which is why the statute gives the standard of whether the actions cause a "reasonable fear." Repeated communications attempting to get back together or to apologize, which turn to anger when the caller does get the reaction sought can easily lead to reasonable fear depending on the conversation. Similarly, repeated contact to a person's work phone or while a person is at work can cause employment issues, regardless of the callers intention.

A conviction for Stalking in the Fourth Degree can pose lasting repercussions to a defendant's life. The offense itself is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days jail. However, the stigma and effects of having a criminal record for stalking can last a lifetime, even if the person never intended any real harm.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman are experts in the stalking law as well as other charges that can arise from domestic incidents. Call us today at (212) 581-1001 for a free case consultation.