Consider these incidents: following from a distance, suddenly appearing on one’s walk to work, leaving phone messages, leaving objects on one’s car, sending flowers with strange notes, and vandalizing property. While any one of these incidents may not be worthy of a crime, when aggregated together as a pattern, they can comprise stalking.
Stalking was first defined as a crime by the California Legislature in 1990, after a series of movie star stalking incidents led to murder. Today, all states make stalking a crime, dubbing it “criminal harassment” or “menace.”
A stalker is someone who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person, and makes a “credible threat” of harm, with the intent to frighten the person. The stalker does not need to actually intend to carry out the threat. To “harass” means to engage in several acts over a period of time that “alarm, annoy, torment, or terrorize” a person and serve no legitimate purpose.
If the above elements are satisfied, a victim of stalking should contact the police and file a report. In conjunction with this, the victim will need to obtain an attorney who can file a restraining order against the stalker. A restraining order compels the stalker to keep a certain distance away or risk being arrested.
Bear in mind, however, that this legal solution should be reserved for extreme cases, where other preventive steps have already been taken, such as using a private post office box, keeping identification information confidential, obtaining an unpublished and unlisted phone number, and so on. Experts have found that restraining orders sometimes can lead to increased or unexpected violence.
Although stalking is a crime, like all crimes, stalking requires proof before the defendant can be punished. As such, the victim should take the following steps to help ensure a successful prosecution:
Yes, although if you feel the situation is escalating out of control, call the police immediately.
A short list of solutions you can take before involving the police. Stalking is typically done to gratify the stalker’s need for control and power. Any steps you can take to put your life back into your own hands will help improve the situation. Remember, the stalker is the one who is legally and morally wrong. The victim should not feel punished or powerless.
After reading the above information, if you still believe you need to file a restraining order against someone, it would be worth while to speak with an attorney before doing so. A experienced criminal attorney can help guide you through this difficult process by filing the proper documents and appearing before the court on your behalf.
Last Modified: 12-23-2014 10:30 AM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
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