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New York Penal Code 120 55 Stalking in the Second Degree

By Spodek Law Group | July 17, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 15, 2023)

Last Updated on: 15th October 2023, 01:12 pm

New York Penal Code 120.55: Stalking in the Second Degree

Stalking in the Second Degree is a serious felony offense in New York that involves repeatedly harassing or threatening someone in a way that causes them to fear for their safety. This crime can have devastating effects on victims and carries harsh penalties, so it’s important to understand what constitutes stalking under New York law.

Overview of Stalking Laws in New York

New York has several stalking offenses ranging from misdemeanors to felonies:

  • Stalking in the Fourth Degree (NY Penal Law 120.45) – Class B misdemeanor
  • Stalking in the Third Degree (NY Penal Law 120.50) – Class A misdemeanor
  • Stalking in the Second Degree (NY Penal Law 120.55) – Class E felony
  • Stalking in the First Degree (NY Penal Law 120.60) – Class D felony

Higher level stalking charges generally require aggravating factors like the use of a weapon, threats of physical harm, or prior stalking convictions.

Stalking involves a “course of conduct” meaning two or more acts over a period of time that are directed at a specific person. Acts can include following, telephoning, sending messages, or any other unwanted contact that causes fear or alarm.

Elements of Stalking in the Second Degree

To be convicted of Stalking in the Second Degree in New York, the prosecution must prove:

  • The defendant engaged in a course of conduct or repeatedly committed acts toward a specific person
  • This course of conduct caused the victim to reasonably fear physical injury, kidnapping, or a sex offense against themselves or a family member
  • At least one of the following aggravating factors:
    • In furtherance of the stalking, the defendant displayed a weapon or what appeared to be a weapon
    • The defendant committed the stalking after a prior conviction for a sex offense or specified predicate crime against the same victim or their family member
    • The defendant has a prior conviction for Stalking in the Third Degree
    • The defendant stalked at least 10 different people on at least 10 separate occasions

Penalties for Stalking in the Second Degree

Stalking in the Second Degree is a class E felony punishable by:

  • Up to 4 years in state prison
  • Probation up to 5 years
  • Fines up to $5,000

The court will also likely issue an order of protection prohibiting contact with the victim. A felony conviction causes permanent damage to one’s criminal record and impacts future employment opportunities.

Examples of Stalking in the Second Degree

Here are some examples of circumstances that could potentially lead to a charge of Stalking in the Second Degree:

  • An ex-boyfriend calls his former girlfriend dozens of times per day, waits outside her apartment, and shows up at her workplace. One day he threatens her with a knife and demands she come with him. His repeated harassment puts her in fear for her safety, and displaying a weapon constitutes Stalking in the Second Degree.
  • A man develops an unhealthy obsession with a female coworker. He follows her home from work several times despite her objections. He was previously convicted of assaulting an ex-girlfriend 5 years ago. Stalking the coworker after a prior related conviction makes this a possible Second Degree stalking case.
  • Over a period of 6 months, a woman sends threatening messages through social media to 15 different people she went to high school with years ago. None of them had any recent relationship with the woman. Stalking 15 victims could lead to a Second Degree charge based on the “10 or more” provision.

Defenses to Stalking Charges

Some possible defenses to Stalking in the Second Degree charges include:

  • No specific victim: The defendant’s conduct was not actually directed at any single person in particular. General ranting on social media for example would not constitute stalking under the law.
  • No fear caused: The alleged victim did not actually feel fear or alarm from the defendant’s actions. If contact was brief, non-threatening, and caused no real concern, it may not rise to the level of stalking.
  • Constitutionally protected activities: The defendant was engaged in acts protected by the First Amendment, such as public protests or picketing government officials. Constitutionally protected speech cannot be considered illegal stalking.
  • Mistaken identity: The defendant was misidentified and did not actually commit the alleged acts. Eyewitness misidentification is a common cause of wrongful convictions.

If charged with Stalking in the Second Degree or any other crime in New York, it is critical to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights, build an effective defense, and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

  • Menacing in the Third Degree – NY Penal Law 120.15
  • Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree – NY Penal Law 120.20
  • Stalking in the Third Degree – NY Penal Law 120.50
  • Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree – NY Penal Law 240.30

Stalking Laws in Other States

Most states have enacted laws prohibiting stalking or criminal harassment. Charges and penalties vary but commonly include:

California – Stalking under Penal Code 646.9 is a wobbler offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Felony stalking can result in up to 5 years imprisonment.

Florida – Stalking under Fla. Stat. 784.048 is a first degree misdemeanor but escalates to a third degree felony for aggravated stalking. Florida also makes cyberstalking a crime under a separate law.

Illinois – Stalking under 720 ILCS 5/12-7.3 is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-3 years imprisonment and fines up to $25,000. Aggravated stalking is a Class 3 felony with harsher penalties.

Texas – Under Tex. Penal Code 42.072, stalking is typically a Class A misdemeanor but enhances to a third degree felony upon a second conviction.

Washington – The crime of stalking under RCW 9A.46.110 is a Class B felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine.

It’s clear stalking and harassment are taken very seriously across the United States. Early intervention from an experienced criminal attorney is critical whenever facing such allegations.


I hope this overview of New York Penal Code 120.55 – Stalking in the Second Degree provides useful information and context around this serious felony offense. Stalking charges should never be taken lightly given the steep penalties and lasting impact on one’s life. Please let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions!

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