What are the penalties for stalking under Alberta law?
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In Canada, stalking is referred to as “criminal harassment”. Typically, the type of actions that can be included in the offence of stalking are as follows:
- Watching or tracking where someone goes.
- Entering property that someone owns or occupies.
- Sending someone unwanted gifts.
- Constantly contacting someone via telephone, internet messaging or emails.
In order to be convicted of criminal harassment (stalking), you must have knowingly done something that made someone fear for their own safety or someone known to them. For example, sitting in your car and simply looking around does not mean you are watching or tracking someone. However, you may be found guilty of criminal harassment if you sit in your car and watch one particular person every day and then proceed to follow them knowing that they appear to be uncomfortable with your behaviour.
You cannot be found guilty of criminal harassment until the crown prosecutor can prove that the complainant felt harassed, your actions made the complainant reasonably fear for their safety and you knew your actions made the complainant feel harassed.
WILL I GO TO JAIL FOR STALKING UNDER ALBERTA LAW?
Oftentimes you will be issued a warning from the police indicating that your actions are making someone feel harassed and you need to stop. However, if you continue to act in such a way that makes the person feel harassed even after receiving the warning from the police, you may be charged.
There are several potential penalties that can arise if someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to the offence of stalking under Alberta law. The maximum jail sentence is ten years in jail. Though it would not be common to find a case that would reach that level of jail time, in the most serious of cases it is possible. Probation, conditional sentence orders and fines may also be potential penalties for the offence of stalking (criminal harassment).
The penalty depends on whether the crown prosecutor elects to proceed by way of summary conviction or indictment. A summary conviction is considered a less serious crime and therefore usually leads to a lesser penalty with little to no jail time.
When criminal harassment is combined with other charges such as assault or uttering threats it becomes a serious offense.
Each situation is different, and the circumstances and evidence vary from case to case. Therefore, it is best to get in touch with a criminal defence lawyer who can guide you in the right direction.
WHAT ARE THE BEST DEFENCES FOR STALKING?
One defence for a stalking charge is to poke holes in the prosecution’s case to show that they cannot prove that the complainant had a reasonable fear for their safety in the circumstances. I explore other defences for criminal harassment charges in a separate FAQ.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I AM CHARGED WITH STALKING?
It is important to contact a criminal defence lawyer in Alberta who is knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with these types of cases.