Stalking is illegal in all states. While the laws differ, a beginning definition of stalking is a course of behavior directed at a specific individual that would make a reasonable individual afraid. One action or behavior is probably not enough to satisfy any legal definition of stalking, but many directed steps taken together over some time may amount to stalking.
Below are some typical examples of stalking behavior:
- Repeated phone calls, including hang-ups to the victim.
- Following the victim or seemingly showing up often where the victim goes.
- Sending unwanted presents, notes, emails, or texts to the victim.
- Damaging the victim’s property, including their house, automobile, or personal property.
- Observing the victim’s contact with others via phone, email, or social media posts.
- Using technology to monitor the victim’s whereabouts, such as GPS devices planted on the victim’s automobile or spy software on their cell phone, or hidden cameras to monitor the victim.
- Hanging out or continually driving by the victim’s house, work, or frequented places.
- Searching for personal details about the victim online by contacting friends or family and digging through the victim’s garbage.
- Threatening the victim, their friends or family, or the victim’s pet.
Strategies to Prevent Stalking
Stalking is hazardous, so safety is always the most important thing. Use vigilance when selecting any of these prospects because what works for one stalking case may not work for another:
- Tell the stalker to stop their unwanted behavior: Be precise in your request, such as “Do not contact me anymore.” “Do not come to my home or work.” “Stop sending me gifts; I do not want anything from you.” After telling the stalker to quit, do not contact or reply to them again.:
- Change routine: Switch grocery stores and other frequented areas. Talk to your employer about changing your hours or establishment.
- Increase security by installing a camera at home: The stalker may have accessed and changed passwords for any accounts. Change the security settings of your social media profiles restricting viewers to only trusted individuals. Stop posting your whereabouts online.
- Take steps to protect yourself: enroll in a self-defense course, never answer blocked phone calls, and have friends or families stay at your home or accompany you when you need to run errands.
- Call the police if the stalker’s conduct makes you feel scared: Police officers may be able to caution the stalker of their continued conduct, provide extra safety, such as checking your home and car for any undesirable spy devices, and arrest the stalker if their behavior has broken the law.
What Evidence Do I Need to Prove Stalking?
Evidence can include many things, so record as much activity as feasible, including the following:
- Record or keep a copy of the warning you gave the stalker to quit their conduct.
- Use a stalking log to document the date, time, place, and contact method of the stalker.
- Record the names and contact info of any witnesses to the conduct.
- Take pictures of any property damage.
- Keep any presents, notes, texts, emails, voicemails, etc., from the stalker.
- Record video or take a picture of the stalker when they follow you or drive by your house or work if it’s safe to do so.
What Legal Action Can a Victim Take to Prevent Stalking?
It would be best if you told the stalker to stop their conduct first. If the stalker continues their conduct, a restraining order may be required. Restraining orders can direct the stalker to stay away from the victim and stop them from contacting the victim. If a stalker disobeys the order, they may face a jail sentence. Harassment is another offense similar to stalking.
If the stalker commits harassment, the victim may be able to seek a restraining order on that ground as well. By calling the police, the victim may be able to press criminal charges against the stalker. The victim may be able to file a civil suit against the stalker for any damages they have caused.
What Is a Restraining Order?
Restraining orders (which may also be known as “protective orders”) are orders issued by a court to protect individuals, businesses, or the general public from harm in cases where there is an allegation of domestic violence, stalking, harassment, assault, or sexual assault.
The restraining orders give the court the ability to order a person to stay a specific distance away from another house, individual, group of individuals (such as all of the other family members in a domestic violence situation), or business. The restraining order might include a “no contact” provision, ordering the individual to abstain from making contact via phone, email, note, delivery, etc.
Are There Different Types of Restraining Orders?
There are several different types of restraining orders that a court might use:
- Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): this is a restraining order in effect until the court can hold a hearing to review the facts surrounding the need for the order. A TRO will usually have a set expiration date or last until the court hearing. At the hearing, the court will determine if there is a need for a long-term restraining order and how long it should last.
- Emergency Protective Order (EPO): An emergency protective order is a restraining order issued by the police after responding to a domestic violence case scene. An EPO is effective immediately and usually lasts no longer than a week. In that time, the individual can file for a long-term order.
- Permanent Restraining Order (PRO): Permanent restraining orders are put into effect after a court case is completed and will last for years, if not forever.
- Domestic Violence Restraining Order: These are ordered explicitly after a domestic violence case. These orders can last for years, or in some cases, for the abuser’s lifetime. The order can protect children, other family members, roommates, or the domestic violence victim’s current romantic partners.
- Civil Harassment Order: When victims need protection from individuals who are not family members, the type of restraining order is a civil harassment order. The abuser is usually a friend, acquaintance, or stranger in these cases.
- Workplace Violence Protection Order: Several states authorize an employer to ask the court for a restraining order to safeguard their workers from harassment, violence, or threats of violence in the workplace.
- Juvenile Restraining Order: a juvenile restraining order is similar to a civil harassment order. Still, it is intended to guard a juvenile (person under 18) from harassment or threats of violence by a non-family member. The order can be issued against another juvenile or an adult.
- Dependent Adult or Elder Abuse Order: Some adults might be at risk of abuse because of age or mental or physical incapacity. A restraining order can be obtained on their behalf to protect them against potential abusers.
How Long Do Restraining Orders Last?
How long a restraining order lasts depends on the type of order and the case’s specific facts. Restraining orders that are issued before the court can review the facts will only last for a few days or weeks. Typically, the order will not expire until the court has a hearing.
The court will hear from both sides at the hearing and decide whether a permanent restraining order is required and reasonable. A permanent order may not expire for years.
Do I Need an Attorney?
A civil lawyer can assist the victim in filing a restraining order and a possible civil suit if necessary. Family law attorneys can also help if the stalker is an ex-spouse or parent of a child in common with the victim. If you have been charged with stalking, contact a criminal lawyer to find out what you face.