The Legal Definition of Stalking

And how to protect yourself.


November 12, 2020

10-28-blogs 22

Often, our culture is quick to use the term “stalking” in a flippant term, describing deep dives into someone’s social media. But stalking is an extremely serious crime, but there are ways to mitigate the threat it can have on your life. . According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 7.5 million people are stalked every year in the United States. The majority of victims are stalked by someone they know. As much as 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims say their stalker is a current or former intimate partner. Twenty-five percent of female victims and 32% of male victims were stalked by an acquaintance, and stalking can come in many forms, both physically and over the internet.

How is stalking legally defined?

The definition of stalking varies from state to state, as jurisdictions have different stalking laws., According to the U.S. National Institute of Justice, however, stalking is “conservatively defined” as “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated (two or more occasions) visual or physical proximity, non-consensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear.”

Stalking is also described by the agency as being a crime of power and control.

What kind of behaviors do stalkers exhibit?

Stalker behavior tends to be obsessive in nature. How a stalker behaves toward a victim varies, depending on the type of relationship (if any) the stalker has with the victim, the stalker’s proximity to the victim, and whether or not the stalker has violent tendencies. Generally, stalkers exhibit the following types of behaviors:

  • Following or lying in wait for the victim

  • Threatening the victim with physical harm

  • Making repeated unsolicited phone calls or texts to the victim

  • Causing damage or threatening to inflict damage on the victim’s property

  • Leaving the victim unwanted presents or other items

  • Spying on the victim with a GPS, camera, or listening device

  • Defaming the victim’s character

  • Harassing the victim online by sharing personal information or spreading rumors

  • Sending the victim hateful messages

The frequency and tactics of stalkers vary depending on the person, but it is always something to take seriously. One in five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims. Other stalkers will even disregard orders of protection filed against them, continuing to harass their victims. Almost one-third of stalkers are repeat offenders.

Is stalking a felony crime?

Is stalking a felony? To answer that question, we have to look at different examples since stalking’s legal definition Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. Territories, however. less than one-third of U.S. states consider stalking a felony on a first offense.

More than one-half classify stalking as a felony after a second (or subsequent) offense if “aggravating factors” are present. Aggravating factors may include possession of a deadly weapon, violating a court order, violation of probation or parole, harassing a victim under 16 years of age, or pursuing the same victim again.

Depending on local laws, some states designate a specific number of events must occur before the activity is considered stalking. Home security systems can protect you and your home, lessening the threat of unwanted visitors. If you have questions about how smart home security can cover your home, call Brinks Home™ today.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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