Stalking occurs when an individual engages in an unwanted pursuit of another person. Many behaviors can be designated as stalking. Some of the most common stalking offenses are showing up at a person’s home or business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or vandalizing another person’s property. One of the most important elements of stalking is that it is not a one-time offense. It is an offense that happens as a pattern that is meant to cause distress to another.
Each state has different stalking laws. Stalking is an offense that has been recently added to many state statutes. This makes it difficult to understand unless the particular statute of the state where the offense took place is verified. Typically, within the states that do have statutes, stalking is a crime involving some form of pattern to follow, threaten or harass another person. Usually, stalkers have an objective of making the individual fear for his or her safety. An individual engaging in stalking can be charged with stalking even if they don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the victim.
In some states, stalking and domestic violence are often related to domestic violence charges since many times the abuser will try to harass the victim after a protective order has been issued by the court. Stalking is used as a power play by domestic violence abusers as a way to try to lure their victims back. This gives victims the feeling that they may never be able to escape.
Protective orders are a device used to protect victims from stalkers. If an individual is suspected of stalking, a protective order will be used to try to protect the victim. Protective orders are issued by judges and require the stalker to maintain a certain distance away from the victim for a specific period of time. If the stalker still does not follow the protective order, the consequences can vary depending on the state and can even include jail time.
Stalking can either be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the particular details of the case. Usually, stalking has penalties related to paying a fine or even incarceration. Additionally, a protective order may be applied by a judge if that order is not already in place. States are starting to have more aggressive statutes where a repeat stalker can be given a more serious punishment. For these new statutes to apply, the repetition must be committed against the same individual, over a particular period of time, and be accompanied by some form of violence. If the stalking involves any actions that cause a possible threat to the general public as well as a certain individual, then the stalker can be charged with additional crimes. It will be up to the court to decide what those additional crimes are based on the exact details of the case.
There are several common defenses to stalking charges. One is “lack of knowledge.” “Lack of knowledge” means the offender did not know the victim would be at a specific location at a certain time. Another common defense is “reasonableness,” which means the victim did not act reasonably when starting to believe that they were in fear of the stalker’s activities. The least common defense is the offender’s activity is constitutionally protected. A common example of this is a political protest.
Stalking is an offense that has serious consequences. States are beginning to codify statutes to more clearly define what stalking actually is and what the corresponding punishments are. If you believe you are being stalked, be sure to report it to the police as soon as possible to protect your safety.
Stalking occurs when an individual engages in an unwanted pursuit of another person on multiple occasions with the objective of causing them distress. This harassment can come in the form of prank phone calls, showing up to their home or office, leaving written notes or engaging in vandalism of another’s property.
According to the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have been stalked during their lifetime.