While stalking in all forms is illegal, some instances of stalking are prosecuted as misdemeanors while other incidences are treated as felonies. State laws regarding felony stalking vary; however, the general overview below will give you an idea as to what type of stalking you may be up against.
Stalking can potentially be considered a felony if:
– The victim has gotten a restraining order against the stalker and the stalker disobeys this order
– The stalker has been convicted of a violent crime at some point of time in the past
– The stalker has been convicted of stalking the same victim within the last seven years
– The victim is under 18 years of age (in some states the victim must be under the age of 16 and a misdemeanor conviction with an enhanced penalty is given in place of a felony conviction)
– The stalker intercepts the victim’s communications (oral or electronic) with third parties
To find out more about felony stalking laws by state, click here.
Felony Stalking: How to Protect Your Children from a Stalker
Many young people meet stalkers online. Stalkers start off by posing as nice people and get to know their victims a bit at a time. Stalkers often seem understanding, are eager to listen and sympathize with a young person’s problems and are always available. However, in time an online stalking relationship shows itself for what it really is. The stalker will start demanding more of a young person’s time; he or she will make your child feel guilty for not chatting continually or paying more attention. If your young person is careless with his or her private information, the stalker can find out your phone number, where you live and where your kids go to school. A cyber-stalking relationship can then move from a cyber-event to a real-life one.
The first step in protecting your kids from stalkers is to teach them how to protect themselves. Young people should never chat online with those they do not know in person. It is also very important for teenagers to be careful when posting photos and comments on social media sites, especially if strong privacy controls are not set in place.
If you suspect your teen is being stalked, talk with him or her about it. Explain what stalking is, how it starts and let them know that it is a common crime. They are not at fault if they are being harassed by a stalker and should not be made to feel guilty.
If your child is being stalked, ask him or her for evidence. Chat messages, emails and other communications can be saved. You can then use these as evidence against the person.
Go to the police to report the crime. The police may be able to identify the stalker from the information you have given. If not; you will want to take measures to protect yourself. Your teenager will need to refrain from going on online chatting sites frequented by the stalker, set strong privacy controls on Facebook and other social media sites and change his or her email address and phone number.
Stalking makes life miserable for the victim, so it would stand to reason that most victims would want to press charges against the guilty party. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. While there are cyber-stalkers who are completely unknown to their victims, in many cases a stalker is an ex- or wannabe love interest, a jealous friend from school, a school or neighborhood bully or even a disgruntled relative or former colleague.
In instances such as the ones outlined above, it is very important to press charges against the person regardless of how you feel. Explain to your teen that stalkers who are allowed to go free not only return to their criminal behavior but become bolder and more aggressive. While sending someone you know to prison for a few years is certainly unpleasant, doing so not only protects you but others as well.
All states have anti-stalking laws, so any form of stalking should be reported to law enforcement officials. In the meantime, take measures to protect yourself and those you love. Secure your home, avoid going out alone or allowing your teen to do so, change online information and phone numbers and keep records of all forms of communication that the stalker may have with you. Doing this will not only help to protect you but make it easier for law enforcement officials to catch the stalker and bring him or her to justice.