Stalking is defined as following or loitering near another, often surreptitiously, to annoy or harass that person or to commit a further crime such as assault or battery. Several state stalking statutes include offenses such as surveillance, threats, or menacing more generally. Overall, there are three elements for a stalking offense: 1) an individual must have intentionally and repeatedly harassed another, 2) there must be a credible threat, and 3) the individual must have intended to place the victim in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.
Variation by Jurisdiction
Under the Criminal Code of Alabama, a person who intentionally and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and who makes a credible threat, either expressed or implied, with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm is guilty of stalking. Stalking is a class C felony. The Criminal Code also has an article that addresses aggravated stalking; this crime is when a person fulfills the elements of a general stalking charge, and who, in stalking another, violates any court order or injunction. Aggravated stalking is a class B felony.
The New York Penal Code separates stalking into four degrees. Stalking in the fourth degree is an individual intentionally engages in conduct directed at a specific person, and knows or reasonably should know that such conduct 1) is likely to cause reasonable fear of material harm to the physical health, safety or property of such person, 2) causes material harm to the mental or emotional health of such person, or 3) is likely to cause such person to reasonably fear that his or her employment, business or career is threatened. Some activities included in the stalking statue include following, telephoning, or initiating contact with another. Stalking in the fourth degree is a class B misdemeanor. An individual is guilty of stalking in the third degree when he is in violation of § 120.45 (stalking in the fourth degree) against three of more persons, commits the crime within ten years of a conviction of a specific predicate crime (listed under NY Penal Code § 120.40(5)), intentionally engages in a course of conduct directed at such person which is likely to cause such person to reasonably fear physical injury or serious physical injury, the commission of a sex offense against, or the kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment or death of such person, or commits the crime of stalking in the fourth degree within ten years of a previous stalking charge. Stalking in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor. An individual is guilty of stalking in the second degree when he displays or uses certain weapons (i.e. knives, shotguns, etc.) in carrying out the crime of stalking in the third degree, commits the crime within five years of a conviction for a specified predicate crime, commits the crime within five years of a conviction for stalking in the third degree, commits the crime against ten or more persons, in ten or more separate transactions, for which the actor has not been previously convicted. A person can also be guilty of stalking in the second degree when being twenty-one years of age or older, he repeatedly follows a person under the age of fourteen or engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts over a period of time intentionally placing or attempting to place such person who is under the age of fourteen in reasonable fear of physical injury, serious physical injury or death. Stalking in the second degree is a class E felony. Finally, stalking in the first degree is when an individual commits stalking in the third or second degree and in the course of the crime, he intentionally or recklessly causes physical injury to the victim of such crime, commits a class A misdemeanor, commits a class E felony, or commits a class D felony.
Section 238 of the German Criminal Code covers the crime of stalking. Under German law, a person stalks another when he seeks his proximity, tried to establish contact with another by means of communication, abuses his personal data for the purpose of ordering goods or services for him or causing third persons to make contact with him, threatens him or a person close to him with loss of life or limb, damage to health or deprivation of freedom, or other similar types of acts. If convicted, a person is punishable by a prison term of up to three years or a fine. The penalty is three months to five years if the offender places the victim, a relative of or another person close to the victim in danger of death or serious injury. If the offender causes the death of the victim, a relative of or another person close to the victim the penalty shall be imprisonment from one to ten years.
Section 264 of the Canadian Criminal Code addresses criminal harassment (commonly referred to as stalking). Under this section, individuals are prohibited from engaging in the following acts: 1) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person 2) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person 3) besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on a business or happens to be or 4) engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family. A conviction for stalking is punishable by imprisonment for up to ten years.
- Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009)
- Marjorie A. Caner, Validity, Construction, and Application of Stalking Statutes, American Law Reports (2005)
- Sonja Larsen, Threats to Maim, Wound, or Bodily Harm, Corpus Juris Secundum (2010)
- Alabama Criminal Code, Chapter 6, Title 5, § 13A-6-90 (1992)
- Alabama Criminal Code, Chapter 6, Title 5, § 13A-6-91 (1992)
- New York Penal Code, Title H, § 120.45 (2009)
- New York Penal Code, Title H, § 120.50 (2009)
- New York Penal Code, Title H, § 120.55 (2009)
- New York Penal Code, Title H, § 120.60 (2009)