FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Are You a Stalker?

You know you do it. Everyone is a Facebook stalker these days. You look at his or her pictures; you read comments made on walls; and you may or may not show up someplace after your stalkee publicly checks-in.

But when does this behavior cross the line? When, exactly, is your (hopefully) innocent obsession breaking your state's stalking laws?

Are you a real stalker?

Stalking is generally defined as a pattern of harassing conduct that places an individual in reasonable fear of harm. But be aware that laws vary by state. New York stalking laws explicitly cover threats to destroy property or a person's career. California's stalking law is limited to threats to harm the victim or her family.

But what about cyberstalking? Or Facebook stalking, as it is most often called?

Some states have laws specifically addressing cyberstalking and other online harassment. They tend to outlaw traditional stalking behavior that is carried out over the Internet.

Other state stalking laws are broad enough to cover cyberstalking. They outlaw repeated harassment, but do not define how that harassment must occur. Under these statutes, a stalker doesn't have to physically follow his victim. He can instead make repeated threats via the mail, Internet or telephone.

The takeaway here is that a real stalker harasses and/or threatens his victim repeatedly. If you're pining away and never make contact with your Facebook stalkee, you're probably not breaking the law.

But if you start showing up in the same places, or making threats? You're either a stalker, or really close to being one. In such a case, it would be wise to brush up on all applicable stalking laws.

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