Though the exact definition of stalking varies by state, it's generally described as the repeated unwanted pursuit of someone. It typically involves a pattern of conduct in which the offender follows, harasses, or threatens the victim, causing the victim to fear for his or her safety.
But what does that mean in reality, how do you know if you're a stalker?
Specific acts that count as stalking include, but are not limited to, the following five situations:
- Physical appearances. A pattern of following someone and showing up wherever he or she happens to be is often referred to as "traditional stalking." This can include repeatedly driving by or showing up at the victim's home, school, or place of work, often in violation of a protective court order.
- Unwanted communication. Repeatedly sending unwanted texts, e-mails, letters, or gifts can be considered stalking. Making harassing phone calls -- including repeated hang-ups -- can also count. You can also face stalking charges for leaving the victim written messages or objects that place him or her in fear. Inappropriate use of social media -- including spreading false rumors -- may suffice if your state recognizes cyberstalking.
- Surveillance. You can face stalking charges when you monitor a person's phone calls or computer use. Tech-savvy stalkers can face charges for using hidden cameras or GPS systems to track a person. Other surveillance issues can include: using public records or online search services; hiring investigators; going through a person's garbage; and contacting the person's family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers to find out more about the person.
- Vandalism. When you damage someone's home, car, or other property to make a person fear for his or her safety, you can face stalking charges.
- Threats and assaults. Both physical assault and sexual assault can contribute to stalking charges. Stalking charges may also result when you threaten the person's family, friends, and co-workers.
If you think you're being stalked, you may want to alert local law enforcement or even request a restraining order against the person who's making you fear for your safety. On the other hand, if you're facing stalking charges, you'll want to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to explore your legal options.
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