Stalking is a crime that is taken very seriously by law enforcement and prosecutors because of the potential results that could occur. Stalking is defined as:
- A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and
- Makes a credible threat with the intent to cause fear for personal safety or the safety of family.
- The threat may be verbal, in writing, or through electronic communication
A credible threat is something that creates reasonable fear in the recipient. The threat must be made with the real ability to carry it out. It causes substantial emotional distress to the victim. The threat may be made verbally, in writing, or through electronic methods including via telephone, cell phone, pager, computer, Internet, fax, voice mail, or any other means. Additionally, threats may be made through conduct that has the intent to threaten an individual.
Harassment is conduct that is knowingly and willfully done to annoy, distress, alarm, or terrorize another person. The conduct may consist of a series of acts that show a particular purpose – to harass a targeted individual.
Different types of stalking include:
- Federal Stalking – Also called “Interstate Stalking”, this is a federal law that makes it a felony to harass or stalk someone across state lines. Federal stalking also applies to stalking anyone located on military land.
- Cyberstalking – Also known as Internet stalking, this type of stalking is done electronically online. Cyberstalking may consist of sending emails or posting false information online with the intent to harass and threaten the victim.
The penalties for stalking vary depending on several factors including whether there are any aggravating factors and whether there is a previous criminal record. First time convictions may face misdemeanor charges with a sentence of up to a year in jail. If the offense is considered more serious, with aggravating factors, the crime may be charged and prosecuted as a federal offense. This carries more harsh penalties with up to three years in prison.
If you are being charged with or investigated for stalking you must contact an attorney immediately. Often times, the charges of stalking may come with other charges as well, such as criminal threats, harassing phone calls, and repeated telephone calls. Your attorney will work to defend you against charges of stalking and harassment.