Understanding the Crime of Stalking
Stalking is a criminal act that occurs when a person purposefully and repeatedly harasses another person, or intends to harass another person. In recent years, it has been discovered that there are many different types of stalking. Types of stalking that are frequently committed and reported to law enforcement include: celebrity stalking, cyber stalking, workplace stalking, workplace harassment, and other forms of harassment.
When a person stalks a victim, the victim is usually aware of the harassing behavior and often has to live in a state of fear that his/her stalker may cause them harm. Once this behavior is reported to law enforcement, the victim will usually file for a restraining order as a way to prevent the stalker from making contact with or following him/her. Sometimes, restraining orders are effective, and the harassment ends. Other times, the stalking behaviors only become worse, which can endanger the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of the victim.
Due to the increase in stalking cases reported over the year, the state of Colorado has adopted strict anti-stalking laws. These laws demand that stalkers be arrested and punished for their harassing behaviors, which can include: violence, threats, invasion of privacy, burglary, vandalism, and trespassing.
Once a person has been charged with stalking, it is usually a wise idea for the person to review his/her legal options with a knowledgeable Tampa criminal defense attorney. Without assistance from a criminal defense lawyer, people stand to face numerous life-altering legal penalties if convicted.Colorado Stalking Charges & Penalties
A Colorado stalking defense attorney can help you avoid the penalties that may come with a stalking conviction. In addition to helping you avoid having a restraining order filed against you, an experienced lawyer may be able to help you avoid having formal charges filed at all.
A person who has been convicted of stalking in Colorado will face a variety of severe legal ramifications. These legal penalties may include, but are not limited to:
- jail time
- community service
- mandatory counseling
- civil action
- restraining orders
- A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:
- Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise touches a person or subjects him to physical contact; or
- In a public place directs obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or at another person; or
- Follows a person in or about a public place; or
- Initiates communication with a person, anonymously or otherwise by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system that is obscene; or
- Makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation; or
- Makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home or private residence or other private property; or
- Repeatedly insults, taunts, challenges, or makes communications in offensively coarse language to, another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.
- Harassment pursuant to subsection (1) of this section is a class 3 misdemeanor; except that harassment is a class 1 misdemeanor if the offender commits harassment pursuant to subsection (1) of this section with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.
- Any act prohibited by paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of this section may be deemed to have occurred or to have been committed at the place at which the telephone call, electronic mail, or other electronic communication was either made or received.
- The general assembly hereby finds and declares that stalking is a serious problem in this state and nationwide. Although stalking often involves persons who have had an intimate relationship with one another, it can also involve persons who have little or no past relationship. A stalker will often maintain strong, unshakable, and irrational emotional feelings for his or her victim, and may likewise believe that the victim either returns these feelings of affection or will do so if the stalker is persistent enough. Further, the stalker often maintains this belief, despite a trivial or nonexistent basis for it and despite rejection, lack of reciprocation, efforts to restrict or avoid the stalker, and other facts that conflict with this belief. A stalker may also develop jealousy and animosity for persons who are in relationships with the victim, including family members, employers and co-workers, and friends, perceiving them as obstacles or as threats to the stalker’s own “relationship” with the victim. Because stalking involves highly inappropriate intensity, persistence, and possessiveness, it entails great unpredictability and creates great stress and fear for the victim. Stalking involves severe intrusions on the victim’s personal privacy and autonomy, with an immediate and long-lasting impact on quality of life as well as risks to security and safety of the victim and persons close to the victim, even in the absence of express threats of physical harm. The general assembly hereby recognizes the seriousness posed by stalking and adopts the provisions of this subsection (4) and subsections (5) and (6) of this section with the goal of encouraging and authorizing effective intervention before stalking can escalate into behavior that has even more serious consequences.
- A person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, such person knowingly:
- Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with such threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship; or
- Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with such threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues; or
- Repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress. For purposes of this subparagraph (III), a victim need not show that he or she received professional treatment or counseling to show that he or she suffered serious emotional distress.
- For the purposes of this subsection (4):
- Conduct “in connection with” a credible threat means acts which further, advance, promote, or have a continuity of purpose, and may occur before, during, or after the credible threat;
- “Credible threat” means a threat, physical action, or repeated conduct that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear for the person’s safety or the safety of his or her immediate family or of someone with whom the person has or has had a continuing relationship. Such threat need not be directly expressed if the totality of the conduct would cause a reasonable person such fear.
- “Immediate family” includes the person’s spouse and the person’s parent, grandparent, sibling, or child; and
- “Repeated” or “repeatedly” means on more than one occasion.
- Where a person commits stalking under paragraph (b) of subsection (4) of this section, the following shall apply:
- A person commits a class 5 felony for a first offense. (a.5) For a second or subsequent offense, if such offense occurs within seven years of the date of a prior offense for which such person was convicted, the offender commits a class 4 felony.
- If, at the time of the offense, there was a temporary or permanent restraining order, injunction, or condition of bond, probation, or parole or any other court order in effect against such person prohibiting the behavior described in paragraph (b) of subsection (4) of this section, such person commits a class 4 felony. In addition, when a violation under subsection (4) of this section is committed in connection with a violation of a court order, including but not limited to any restraining order or any order that sets forth the conditions of a bond, any sentence imposed for such violation pursuant to this subsection (5) shall run consecutively and not concurrently with any sentence imposed pursuant to section contempt proceeding for violation of the court order. Nothing in this paragraph (b) shall be construed to alter or diminish the inherent authority of the court to enforce its orders through civil or criminal contempt proceedings; however, before a criminal contempt proceeding is heard before the court, notice of the proceedings shall be provided to the district attorney for the district of the court where the proceedings are to be heard and the district attorney for the district of the court where the alleged act of criminal contempt occurred. The district attorney for either district shall be allowed to appear and argue for the imposition of contempt sanctions.
- A peace officer shall have a duty to respond as soon as reasonably possible to a report of stalking and to cooperate with the alleged victim in investigating such report.