Inform Yourself: January is National Stalking Awareness Month

January 19th, 2016 by Attorney Dan Carman

Kentucky Stalking Attorney

As the old saying goes, there are two sides to every story – and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Perception is important, especially when one person’s version of events amounts to a criminal accusation against another. Many individuals who have been charged with stalking are unaware that their conduct actually classifies as illegal behavior. Starting in 2004, the National Center for Victims of Crime designated January as National Stalking Awareness Month to help increase the public’s understanding of the crime.

It is estimated that 7.5 million Americans are victims of stalking each year, with the majority being stalked by someone they know. Approximately 14 percent of female victims and 16 percent of male victims first experience stalking between the ages of 11 and 17. One of the biggest concerns about stalking is that it is often a component of domestic violence and an indicator of potentially serious violence, including sexual assault and homicide. In fact, California passed the nation’s first anti-stalking statute in 1990 after the highly publicized murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer by a fan. Stalking has since been made a crime in all 50 states, but less than one-third classify it as a felony upon first offense. Misdemeanor stalking is often legally referred to as harassment.

Generally, stalking is considered to be a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to be afraid. The specific legal definition varies among the states. A “course of conduct” is typically two or more activities by the accused that result in unwanted attention or contact, including:

  • Sending the victim gifts, emails, letters, texts, or instant messages
  • Calling the victim
  • Watching or following the victim
  • Monitoring the victim’s computer, GPS, cell phone, etc.
  • Appearing at places, without a legitimate reason, where the victim is likely to be.

In certain instances, the victim may identify the wrong person as the stalker or may make false accusations. In others, there may not be a repeated course of conduct or any behavior that the victim should have reasonably feared. While it’s important to recognize that some behavior may make others uncomfortable, such behavior must involve a credible threat in order to rise to the level of stalking. It also must be deliberate. Sometimes, people can be in the same public space and not realize it. A defendant’s lack of knowledge that he or she was near the victim can be used to defend a stalking charge.

If you’ve been accused of a crime relating to stalking, or have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.