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Stalking

What constitutes stalking?

Stalking is defined in the State of Florida as "willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing or cyberstalking" another. Stalking behaviors can consist of many things-actual physical following of a person, continuously calling or texting, e-mailing, leaving notes or sending letters, leaving or sending objects or "gifts"...essentially, a pattern of unwanted behavior with malicious intent. Stalking involves a pattern of behavior that causes substantial emotional distress to a specific person with no legitimate purpose.

Under Florida law, stalking is a first degree misdemeanor charge. However, a person may be charged with Aggravated Stalking, which is a third degree felony charge, under any of the following circumstances:

  1. If the offender stalks a minor who is under the age of sixteen (16).
  2. If the offender makes a "credible threat" of bodily injury or death against the victim as part of the behaviors exhibited, with the intent to cause the victim to reasonably fear for his or her safety.
  3. If the victim has an injunction for protection or other court-ordered prohibition of conduct by the offender toward the intended person or that person's property, and the offender persists with the pattern of behaviors.

What should you do if you believe you are being stalked?

These incidents should be reported to law enforcement whenever possible.

In order to preserve evidence for potential prosecution for stalking, victims are urged to keep a log of the behaviors of the suspect, to include dates, times, witnesses, location, and a description of the behaviors. It is important to save any e-mails received, letters, photographs, text messages (or at least photos of the text messages), phone call logs, recordings of messages. To establish a pattern of stalking behavior, it is essential that the behaviors/incidents be documented and any potential evidence preserved for use as evidence in the potential prosecution of the offender.

If a pattern of stalking behavior can be established, regardless of whether or not the incident has been reported to law enforcement, the victim may file for an injunction for protection, even if there has been no actual violence or threat of violence per se.

Additional information and resources on stalking:

National Center for Victims of Crime - www.ncvc.org
U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women - ovw.usdoj.gov

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