In general, stalking is criminal harassment. It occurs when someone makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with that threat, either repeatedly communicates with the person or the person's immediate family, or repeatedly follows the person around. Stalking can also be where a person looks through windows or is a peeping tom.
When someone repeatedly makes obscene gestures or comments to another, it may also constitute a form of criminal harassment or stalking if it is done with the intent to harass the person.
Is Stalking Always a Misdemeanor?
Stalking is often a misdemeanor, but it can become a felony when a person is convicted more than once, or when the behavior is aggravated in some way. These distinctions depend on where the stalking takes place, as the laws vary by state.
What Constitutes a Credible Threat"?
A "credible threat" is one that is made with the intent to cause someone to fear for his or her safety. The threat must be one that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her life or the safety of his or her family. Also, the threat usually must be one against the life of a person, or one of great physical injury to a person.
What If the Stalker Is a Former Spouse or Significant Other?
Commonly, a stalker will know his or her victim. If a stalker is a former spouse or other romantic partner, issues surrounding domestic violence may apply.
Should I Consult an Attorney?
Stalking laws differ from state to state. If you have been accused of stalking, you should retain the services of a criminal defense lawyer. He or she will be able help you determine your options and defenses. You may also want to seek out a restraining order lawyer for assistance in keeping a stalker at bay.