California Stalking Laws

Each year 7.5 million people are stalked, with 61% of the victims being female. 44% of the victims are stalked by a former intimate partner. In the current digital era, studies indicate that the rates of stalking and harassment have increased, and areas such as Southern California have higher rates than other parts of the nation. Stalking, cyber-stalking, harassment, and bullying are all similar bad acts. Sometimes it can be the result of a misunderstanding or vindictive accuser.  Other times, spouses dealing with divorce start accusing each other of stalking or harassment.

What is Stalking?

California Penal Code 646.9 defines stalking as following, harassing, and/or threatening another person to the point where s/he fears for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her family. As with the standard for threats, one must have had a ‘reasonable fear’ in order to fulfill the standard for stalking.

California Penal Code 646.9

California stalking laws are considered among the toughest and most comprehensive in the nation. Stalking is a “wobble” in California which means it can be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the specific facts of the case and your criminal history. The prosecutor typically has the authority to determine what to pursue. However, stalking is automatically a felony if:

  • The stalking is in violation of a court-issued protective order
  • The defendant has previously been convicted of stalking (even if the alleged victim in the new case is not the same person previously stalked).


A misdemeanor stalking conviction can be punishable by informal probation, up to one year in jail, and up to a $1,000 fine. A felony stalking conviction can be punishable by formal probation, up to five years in jail, a $1,000 fine, counseling, and registration under CA Penal Code 290.

In all cases, a restraining order may be issued against you, and the alleged victim will be notified 15 days prior to your release.

Lastly, California allows for a non-criminal remedy for stalking. Cal Civ Code § 1708.7 gives a stalking victim tort damages if s/he were to sue his or her stalker in court.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

In order to be convicted of these crimes, the government must prove the elements of each crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether found guilty or not, being accused of stalking or harassment can easily ruin your reputation. The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all types of Misdemeanor and Felony criminal cases in San Diego County. Mr. Boertje has successfully tried many cases, including stalking and harassment, domestic violence, and sexual offenses. Whenever possible, he will move to suppress evidence from your case. Contact our office today and ask for a free, confidential consultation to see how we may be able to put our experience to use to help you.

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