A stalker does not just have to be a creep hiding in the bushes or following 3 cars behind you everywhere you go. A stalker does not have to wear all black clothing and have a bag full of spy gear. Often people can be accused of stalking for sending unwanted gifts or trying to contact an ex who does not want to be contacted. A situation can quickly be blown out of proportion if the other person doesn’t like your actions and you can find yourself facing a stalking or voyeurism charge.
As stated in Florida Statute 784.048, stalking means “A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses (acts causing a person severe emotional distress), or cyberstalks another person.” Here, stalking will require a course of conduct, meaning a person will commit a series of acts, such as follow you to work every day, make never ending phone calls, or send you items, and perform these acts with a purpose. Stalking is a 1st degree misdemeanor, and if convicted, you can be sentenced up to 1 year in jail or probation and $1,000 fine. A stalking charge is increased to a 3rd degree felony if:
- You are caught stalking after an Injunction protection order has been served by the court.
- If you have been sentenced for a violation already.
- If you are caught stalking a minor under 16 years old.
If a situation elevates to you making a threat to another person, such as “I’m watching you,” or “I know where you live,” or leaving threatening letters while stalking a person, this is called aggravated stalking. Aggravated stalking is a 3rd degree felony, equaling 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If the threat letters are though texts or emails, or any way through an online messaging system, this is cyberstalking. Cyberstalking occurs in cyberspace, so by way of cell phone, computers, internet, etc., pretty much anything through technological means. This usually occurs by communicating several times with a person online who has blocked you or trying to access online systems involving the other person, such as their house cameras or social media accounts, without their permission. For more information on cyberstalking, please review our cyberstalking article (April 30, 2017).
Voyeurism is defined under Florida Statute 810.14 as “When a person, with lewd, lascivious, or indecent intent:
1) Secretly observes another person when the other person is located in a dwelling, structure, or conveyance and such location provides a reasonable expectation of privacy.
2) Secretly observes another person’s intimate areas (meaning any portion of a person’s body or undergarments that is covered by clothing and intended to be protected from public view) in which the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, when the other person is located in a public or private dwelling, structure, or conveyance.
It is not voyeurism if a person gives their knowledge and consent of the situation. An attorney will argue that knowledge or consent were provided.
Note that voyeurism does not have to involve sexual conduct or pleasure. It can be as simple as watching a person cook dinner in the privacy of their own home, while you are outside in your vehicle with binoculars. The person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home, and you are violating that privacy while secretly sitting in your car, purposefully watching them, without their knowledge or consent. Voyeurism is a first-degree misdemeanor. If, however, this is your second or third violation, the court may increase the charge to a third-degree felony.
Voyeurism can include the use of an image or video taken of another person. Nowadays, everyone has a camera in their pocket. Smartphones, tablets, even Apple Watches can take a picture or a video. People have cameras on their front doors. Stalking and video voyeurism cases have skyrocketed in Florida because of the technology at our disposal. But what constitutes a voyeurism charge to include the word “video?”
For example, Cape Canaveral National Seashore has a nude beach at Lot 13, on Playalinda Beach. There, it would not be voyeurism by looking at a person because the person does not have an expectation of privacy at a nude beach. But what about taking a picture or video of a person, for example, walking out of the ocean? Taking a picture would be video voyeurism because you did not receive the individual’s knowledge or consent of taking the picture. Distributing that picture would increase the charge to video voyeurism dissemination (distributing the picture to a friend for example) or commercial dissemination (selling the picture to make a profit), depending on what is done with the picture or video after its capture.
So why aren’t voyeurism and stalking the same thing? Note the word, “repeatedly” in the stalking definition. Let’s stick with the example of sitting outside in a vehicle with binoculars. This situation would be voyeurism. However, let’s say this person sits outside with binoculars every day for 3 weeks. Notice the continuous course of conduct, the purpose, the intent of sitting outside every night to watch someone through their window? This would elevate the voyeurism charge to stalking because it isn’t a one-time occurrence.
Understanding the differences between the two types of crimes and arguing your side of the situation can bring down the charges because the other party may have blown the situation out of proportion.
So, you were accused of stalking or committing voyeurism against your ex? Discussing these charges with your criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Adams & Luka, P.A. is your best option to get the stalking charges dropped to a voyeurism conviction or get all charges dismissed.