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Stalking Laws in California – Penal Code 646.9 PC

Review of the Crime of PC 646.9 Stalking in California 

California Penal Code 646.9 PC describes the crime of “stalking” as harassing, following, or threatening another person to the point where they fear for their safety.

With regards to stalking, California has very stringent laws. It can merit a felony or misdemeanor offense, commonly known as a “wobbler,” depending upon the particulars of the case. Some of the factors to consider may be:

Stalking Laws in California – Penal Code 646.9 PC
PC 646.9 stalking laws makes it a crime to follow someone to a point where they fear for their safety.
  • location of the stalking,
  • whether or not the victim had already filed a restraining order,
  • criminal history of the defendant,
  • whether the stalking relates to a domestic violence case.

With the rise of social media and the widespread availability of location tracking technology, stalking crimes are happening more and more frequently.

Examples of stalking crimes 

Stalking may be one of those crimes that is more difficult to put a finger on. For example, one might wonder how simply following someone can be punishable.

Some examples of actions on the part of the defendant that could lead the victim to file stalking charges could include:

  • unwanted or unexplained following of the victim,
  • cyberstalking,
  • evidence that the defendant was gathering inexplicably large amounts of information regarding the victim,
  • unwanted communication between the defendant and the victim,
  • unwanted gifts from the defendant to the victim.

To give readers a better understanding of California's stalking laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing a detailed review below.

What is the Definition of PC 646.9 Stalking?

As stated, the California statute that defines stalking is Penal Code 646.9, which says:

  • “Anyone who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and makes a credible threat with the intent to place them in reasonable fear for their safety, or the safety of their immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.”


It should be noted that “harassing” means you engaged in willful behavior directed at the victim that annoyed or tormented them for no legitimate purpose.

What is the Definition of PC 646.9 Stalking?
Harassment means to willfully annoy or torment a victim for no legitimate purpose.

Further, the harassing conduct must occur two or more times, even if the done quickly, but showed there was a continuous purpose for the behavior.

Reasonable fear 

The issue of intent on placing the victim in “reasonable fear” is a common issue that is determined by a close review of the circumstances of the case.

Factors a prosecutor must prove 

For a prosecutor to prove that a case of chargeable stalking has occurred, they must prove certain elements of the crime (CALCRIM 1301) in question. These include:

  • defendant followed or harassed another person, maliciously and willfully;
  • defendant threatened another person in a material way;
  • defendant has caused the stalking victim to fear for their safety or the safety of their family.

Related California crimes 

The related crimes for Penal Code 646.9 stalking include:

What are the Penalties for PC 646.9 Stalking?

The penalties that accompany a crime of PC 646.9 stalking can vary significantly depending on the specifics of the case.

If convicted of a stalking crime as a misdemeanor, it's punishable by:  

  • county jail time of up to one year,
  • a fine of up to $1,000,
  • summary probation.

If convicted of a stalking crime as a felony offense, the defendant may expect:

  • state prison time of up to five years,
  • a fine of up to $1,000,
  • formal probation.

In the presence of compounding circumstances, including prior convictions, the prosecution must file the crime as a felony.

Also, if the defendant was under a restraining order at the time of the stalking offense, the defendant may face heightened penalties.

In these more severe situations, the defendant could face larger fines, more jail time, and even the requirement of Penal Code 290 registering as a sex offender in the state of California.

Stalking Victims and Restraining Orders

If one person suspects another of stalking, they are at liberty to file for a protection or restraining order against the suspected stalker.

For example, if a person is a victim of domestic violence or spousal abuse, they can seek an emergency protection order.

The specifics of each order may differ, but the language included could restrain the alleged stalker from coming within a certain distance of typical places the victim might frequent.

If the alleged stalker violates the parameters of the order, the court could decide to find the stalker in violation of Penal Code 166 PC contempt of court, or Penal Code 602 PC trespassing.

How Can I Fight PC 646.9 Stalking Charges?

Stalking can be a difficult crime to litigate in California Courts. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review the details in order to develop a strategy for best outcome.

How Can I Fight PC 646.9 Stalking Charges?
Our law firm will review the details of the stalking charges to develop a strategy for best outcome.

On occasion, the accusations that the victims make are false or exaggerated. On other occasions, the accusations made are extremely difficult to prove.

A stalking crime or accusation relates to highly personal dynamics between the accused and the victim in many cases. We have seen stalking arise from tense, charged situations that include:

  • divorce proceedings,
  • spite or jealousy,
  • breakups,
  • child custody fights.

Depending on the circumstances of the charge, we may choose to pursue any of a varied number of defense strategies. Some common defenses against stalking in California include:

  • defendant was completing a protected activity at the time of alleged stalking,
  • the threat associated with the stalking crime was not credible,
  • the stalking accusation was false.

Criminal Defense for California Stalking Charges

If you or a loved one faces Penal Code 646.9 PC stalking charges, it's essential to act quickly before the circumstances affect your reputation in an overly negative way.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys have experience defending those charged with stalking crimes and other domestic violence related offenses.

We may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce or even dismiss the charges against you.

Criminal Defense for California Stalking Charges
Contact our law firm to review the details of your stalking case.

Further, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to persuade the prosecutor from filing formal criminal charges before court.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm serving people in Southern California, including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clarita, Riverside, and San Bernardino.

We are located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.

Our main office is in the San Fernando Valley next to the Van Nuys Superior Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.

Contact our firm for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570.

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