This is the next post in a series of articles discussing defending against stalking or harassment charges in Austin, Texas. The previous post addressed how to respond to situations in which one is falsely accused of stalking or harassment. It is imperative to defend yourself from the accusations, even when fabricated, to avoid the potentially serious consequences that may result. An experienced criminal attorney can help prepare your defense. In this post, I will discuss what one may expect in court if a stalking or harassment charge proceeds to trial. If you need assistance, contact my office today to speak with a lawyer.
I have previously written about the trial process in Austin in domestic violence cases. A trial in connection with stalking or harassment charges will be very similar. The first step in the process is jury selection. Potential jurors, or members of a “jury pool” are summoned for duty. The court will question and remove jurors whom the judge finds incapable of being unbiased. Attorneys for the prosecution and defense may also question the panel and “challenge” jurors who cannot be fair, and both sides are allowed to strike a certain number of unfavorable potential jurors even if they are not legally disqualified. Once the selection is finalized and the jury has been empaneled, the prosecutor and defense counsel for each side present their opening statements. The prosecution will present its case and then the defendant will have an opportunity to present evidence, if they choose to do so. Following closing arguments, the jurors will deliberate and, once they arrive at a decision, render a verdict.
As in any trial, the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense attorney will be very fact specific. As previously discussed, the crime of harassment occurs when a person contacts a victim, either in person or through other means, including email, text messages or on social media, with the intention of causing them worry, fear, or some form of embarrassment or humiliation. When the behavior is recurring and threatening in nature, a person may be charged with stalking. Given the multitude of ways one may harass or stalk another person, evidence used at trial, both to prove or disprove harassment or stalking, may come in a variety of forms. Experienced defense counsel will understand how to challenge the state’s evidence and what evidence, if any, might be needed to counter it. Furthermore, a criminal attorney with trial experience will understand how to communicate the facts leading to a reasonable doubt in a clear and concise way to the jury so that the defendant has the best chance for a favorable outcome.
This is best illustrated by an example. Consider a situation in which a separated husband and wife are involved in a divorce and custody case. During the pendency of the divorce, the husband accuses the wife of stalking him and his new girlfriend by repeatedly following them around town. His evidence consists of multiple cell phone pictures of his wife’s car at the local grocery store, their children’s school and the shopping mall where his girlfriend works. The defense attorney, after investigating the claim, submits video surveillance from the mall and grocery recorded on several of the dates on which the alleged stalking occurred. The film reveals that the wife was actually shopping and not behaving in any threatening way. Furthermore, the attorney submits a copy of school records indicating that the wife had volunteered at the school on the dates in question. In addition, counsel obtained text messages between the husband and wife indicating amicable communications between the two regarding visitation of the children. By clearly explaining the pieces of information to the jury, defense counsel may demonstrate that his client’s appearances at the same locations as her accuser’s was mere coincidence. In doing so, counsel may also convince the jury that the accusers grossly exaggerated the allegations. If the jury has a reasonable doubt and acquits the defendant, the attorney not only will have prevented criminal penalties for the charges, but may also have prevented the wife from a restriction or loss in her child custody case.
Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney in harassment or stalking trials is essential. I am certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in criminal law and have dedicated by practice to criminal defense since 1995. Contact my office today to speak with a lawyer. I also serve the cities of Rollingwood, Round Rock, Elgin, Jonestown, Manor, Bee Cave, Lago Vista, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Creedmoor, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander, and San Marcos, Texas.