Police claim they have reports of a man trying to lure a teen girl into his van in Winter Haven.
The incident was reported to have happened Thursday afternoon in front of Polk State College. Investigators said the man attempted to lure a 15-year- old girl into his van and when she declined, he allegedly blocked her path with his van.
In less than 48 hours, Winter Haven Police said they arrested a 55-year-old man, in connection to the incident. He has been charged with stalking, a misdemeanor, and driving with an expired license.
A Winter Haven police officer spotted a van that matched the description pulling into a parking space at 3:53 a.m. at the Racetrac gas station on Havendale Blvd.
Police claim the man admitted to the incident.
Reports indicate that there was a witness who yelled and told the teen girl not to get into the van, causing the man to take off.
The accused allegedly told officers he was just offering her a ride and that he asks people if they need rides all the time. He said he thought she was an adult.
Under Florida law, stalking is considered a serious offense and is charged as a misdemeanor. Stalking is generally defined as a pattern of following, watching, or monitoring another person with the sole intent to harass, frighten, intimidate, threaten, or cause emotional duress. The act of stalking can vary in how it is carried out, and may include the following:
- Following someone – this can be just once or on a routine basis
- Driving past or randomly showing up at someone’s residence, place of work, or school
- Cyberstalking: monitoring a person’s computer, cell phone, or social networking activity
- Monitoring a person’s whereabouts through a secretly implanted GPS device on their vehicle or person
- Sending someone unwanted letters, gifts, or emails
- Contacting someone repeatedly via phone calls and text messages
- Secretly videotaping or photographing someone
- Gathering information about a person without their permission through public records, internet searches, private investigators, or by contacting the person’s friends, family members, and acquaintances
- Threatening a person or their friends, family members, or pets
- Damaging a person’s property, such as their home, vehicle, or other property
In the state of Florida, a person who repeatedly, willfully, and maliciously follows or harasses another person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. If the person repeatedly, willfully, and maliciously follows or harassed another individual, and makes a credible threat towards that person with the intent to cause fear of death or bodily harm, the offender will be charged with a third degree felony. This crime is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Stalking charges are taken very serious in the state of Florida. If you have been accused of stalking, you do not want to just sit around and wait to see what happens. Instead, you need to take action right away, ideally before formal charges are even filed. This will give you the best possible chance of avoiding arrest and prosecution, if possible, as well as any undeserved penalties.
There are several things you should not do if you learn you are being investigated for or charged with stalking. You should NOT:
- Try to talk to the alleged victim about the case or have any contact with the alleged victim.
- Talk to law enforcement or other investigators without an attorney present. It is very common for the police to ask for statements from the accused during an investigation. An experienced attorney can take charge and help prevent you from talking your way into more trouble.
- Give any evidence to law enforcement without consulting with your lawyer first. Even if you believe the evidence will show you are not guilty of the alleged crime, you should wait for your attorney to review this and handle the matter accordingly.