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In the United States, stalking is a crime in all 50 states and federally. In this article, we'll define the term “stalking” and explain the laws related to it. 

Key Takeaways

  • Stalking is a crime in which an individual intentionally and repeatedly follows or harasses another person such that they fear injury or death to themselves or their loved ones
  • Stalking may include behaviors such as following the victim, threatening the victim, stealing from the victim, and more
  • Stalking is illegal in all 50 states
  • Elements that may enhance a stalking crime to a felony include the victim being underage, the violation of a protective order, the use of a deadly weapon, and more
  • Stalking on federal land or across state borders is made illegal in the Violence Against Women Act

What Is Stalking?

Stalking is a crime involving an individual willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person such that they may reasonably fear injury or death. Stalking may also involve expressing or implying threats.

Examples of Stalking

Behaviors that constitute stalking may include:

  • Leaving messages for the victim
  • Following the victim
  • Calling the victim incessantly
  • Assaulting the victim
  • Vandalizing the victim's property
  • Killing or harming the victim's pet
  • Waiting outside the victim's home or place of business
  • Disclosing to the victim personal information that the stalker has learned about them
  • Disseminating personal information about the victim to others
  • Threatening the victim
  • Violating the terms of a protective order
  • Using technology to gather information about or images of the victim
  • Sending the victim photographs of them taken without consent or knowledge
  • Monitoring the victim's internet history or computer usage
  • Visiting the victim at work
  • Sending the victim cards or gifts
  • Stealing from the victim 

Stalking and the Law

Stalking is illegal in all 50 states. There are slight variations in each state’s laws defining stalking, with some introducing elements such as:

  • Lying in wait, or concealing oneself to surprise somebody
  • Surveillance
  • Ignoring warnings from police officers

Enhanced stalking crimes, or “first degree” stalking classified as a felony, often require elements such as:

  • The victim being below a certain age
  • The defendant violating a court order or protective order
  • The use or exposure of a deadly weapon
  • Harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin
  • Falsely impersonating another person

As part of the 1996 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), it is a federal felony to cross state lines in order to stalk an individual. It is also a federal felony to stalk on military or U.S. territorial lands. 

If you have experienced stalking, you may pursue a criminal lawsuit against your stalker so that they will be punished for their crimes. You can also pursue a civil lawsuit in order to recover damages for your losses. 

If you are interested in pursuing a lawsuit against your stalker, it is recommended that you speak to an experienced attorney who has worked on stalking cases in the past. They will be able to offer you a free case review and give you advice as to how to proceed.

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