What is Stalking + Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

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Stalking is a criminal act that involves harassing and repeatedly following someone else. A series of actions have to be identified before something is classed as a crime, however. For instance, it is not a criminal act to wait outside someone’s place of work, to write love letters, or to send flowers. However, when this done in order to instill injury or fear, then it may be classed as stalking. Stalking laws and charges are gender neutral, but the majority of perpetrators are male, and the majority of victims are female.

Stalking Laws

Stalking is covered under a number of different acts and laws, including:

• The Violence Against Women Act, Title VI of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-322)
• 18 U.S.C.S. Section 2261A – Stalking (2013)
• 18 U.S.C.S. Section 2261B – Stalking (2013)

In order for a behavior to be classed as stalking, the victim must:

• Fear that he or she, a member of immediate family, or partner/spouse is at risk of death or serious injury
• Show that he or she has suffered or will suffer significant emotional distress

The section also covers interstate stalking in particular, at which point it is classed as a federal offense. This is covered under Section 2261B.

Stalking Crimes & Charges

Stalking crimes are difficult to trial. They must show specific intent, which means they must demonstrate that the defendant intended to cause distress and harassment. To achieve this, five types of stalkers have been identified. A sub-division has now been created, highlighting that these five types of stalkers can be terrestrial or cyber. The five categories are:

1. Rejected stalkers, who are almost always ex-partners
2. Resentful stalkers, who have a grievance with the other person
3. Intimacy seekers, who want to enter loving relationships and don’t understand that the victim doesn’t feel the same
4. Incompetent suitors, who are people who feel they are entitled to a relationship with someone who has turned them down in the past
5. Predatory stalkers, who usually stalk before committing a more serious offense such as rape

Stalking Punishments

Stalking is usually treated as a form of harassment, which can be a felony or a misdemeanor. First time offenders usually receive a misdemeanor charge, but subsequent charges become felonies. Some states also differentiate in the type of threat. For instance, causing fear for safety is classed as a misdemeanor. Making someone believe they will be severely physically harmed or killed is a felony.

Punishments and penalties for stalking vary depending on the situation and the defendant. However, they commonly include:

• Jail time
• Fines
• Psychological counseling
• Suspensions and bans from activities
• Studying anti-bullying policies (if it happened between two school going children)
• Restraining orders
• Civil liability

Stalking Sentencing Guidelines

A number of factors should be taken into consideration when passing sentence on someone convicted of stalking. These include:

• What the level of offense is
• What the characteristics of the offense were
• Whether the perpetrator has prior convictions
• The type of stalking that took place
• The type of stalker the perpetrator is
• Whether any threats were acted upon

Stalking Statute of Limitations

Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for stalking is three years. Additionally, a statute of limitations of two years is generally placed on civil actions. The statute can usually be tolled if the defendant is out of state or the country.

Stalking Cases

• Rebecca Shaeffer, an actress and a resident of California, was shot and killed by someone who had stalked her for two years. This was the first time the public took notice of stalking. This case also started the development and eventual implementation of anti-stalking laws. Shaeffer was killed because the police could not intervene until her stalker actually made good on his threats, resulting in her death. (Page Six)

• In 1982, Arthur Richard Jackson attempted to murder actress Theresa Saldana. She was 27 years old and had become the object of Jackson’s obsession. He approached her after a music lesson on March 15, 1982, at which point he started stabbing her so often and so hard that he bent the knife. A delivery man was able to intervene and paramedics were called. She had a 26 pint blood transfusion and heart lung surgery, but she survived. Jackson received a sentence of 12 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence. He is now scheduled for parole, despite continuing to admit to be obsessed with Saldana and vowing to still kill her. (People)

• Richard Farley massacred seven people and injured four others in 1988, as a result of his obsession with a woman, Laura Black, who didn’t love him back. Farley claimed it was love at first sight, but his attention was not returned. He armed himself and entered the classified research building in which Black worked. He held a number of people hostage, claiming that he only intended to ‘shoot out’ some of the computers. However, he actually shot Black, walked away, and reloaded, firing a further 50 shots. Laura Black was one of the ‘lucky’ ones in that she was merely injured, rather than killed. (New York Times)

• In 1989, five murders took place in Orange County by a man known as the ‘Night Stalker’, who turned out to be Richard Ramirez. Ramirez is a self-professed Satanist and committed 13 murders in the 1980s. He was sentenced to death in 1989. (New York Times)

• Charlie Sheen seems to be under investigation for many different crimes, one of which is allegedly stalking. A search warrant has been issued after Scottine Ross, his ex-fiancee, pressed charges against him. She is also suing him for having sexual intercourse with her, knowing that he had HIV, but not disclosing this to her. Ross has already pressed numerous other charges against Sheen, including the intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as assault and battery. (The Sidney Morning Herald)

Stalking Laws by State

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

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