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PFAs plus GPS Trackers Equals Stalking Charges

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Aug 11, 2022 | 0 Comments

In June, 2022, a man who had an existing Protection from Abuse (PFA) order against him was charged in Milton, PA, with planting a GPS tracker in his domestic partner's vehicle. State police allege that sometime in May, Corey Hollenbach, 47, of Milton, put the device inside the victim's vehicle to stalk and track his companion.

When the tracker was found, the victim contacted state police and felony stalking charges were filed. Once law enforcement discovered the PFA order against Hollenbach, they additionally charged him with criminal use of a communication facility.

Placing a GPS tracking device on a vehicle is one of several behaviors that can be considered stalking in Pennsylvania. The state defines stalking as “a course of conduct or repeated acts or communications demonstrating intent to place someone else in reasonable fear of bodily injury, or to cause substantial emotional distress.”

A first-degree stalking misdemeanor is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Stalking becomes a third-degree felony with a second or subsequent offense if:

  • The accused has committed a violent offense against the same family member, or
  • The victim has a Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) against the accused.

The punishment for third-degree felony stalking is up to seven years in jail or a maximum fine of $15,000.

Defending Yourself Against Stalking Charges

A person can be convicted of using a communication device to commit a felony in several ways. The original law was meant to help convict drug traffickers. But in the late '90s as GPS and other tracking technology became more accessible to the public, the legislature incorporated criminal use of any tracking device (or software) as an enhancement to Pennsylvania's domestic violence stalking charges.

But there are some situations where attaching a tracking device to a vehicle may not fall under the definition of stalking:

  • The accused owns the vehicle at the time of the alleged offense. For example, the accused may be paying the loan on the vehicle and wants to make sure their ex doesn't steal the car.
  • Parents want to keep track of their teen drivers.
  • The owner of the car suspects another user, such as a mechanic, is driving the car when they shouldn't be.

Even if the installation of a tracking device is determined to be a stalking offense, it won't become a felony unless the accused has a PFA against them or a domestic violence charge. Anyone who files a false stalking report risks being charged with either falsely incriminating another, or filing fictitious reports.

Defending against any stalking charge requires an attorney with extensive criminal defense experience. But when the stalking charge is enhanced by a PFA violation and criminal use of a tracking system, a seasoned criminal defense lawyer can help defend against these more serious charges.

The LLF Law Firm has many years of experience representing Pennsylvanians accused of domestic violence and other related allegations. If someone has accused you of using a GPS for stalking, call the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!

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