Top 5 Stalking Laws and Legal Questions

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 16, 2019

Reddit's legal advice section has often been the source for our weirdest legal news, but every now and then it can provide a chilling insight into users' legal problems: "My ex boyfriend will repeatedly call me until I answer the phone," one distressed user recently wrote. "Yesterday I had 200 plus missed calls. What can I do?"

The question reminds us that many stalking victims often don't know what constitutes stalking in the first place, much less the legal resources they have available to them. So here's what you need to know about stalking laws, and what you can do to stop a stalker.

1. Stalking Requires Intent to Cause Emotional Suffering, Federal Court Rules

Anti-stalking statutes can vary from state to state, and some may not be based solely on how the victim perceives the stalker's acts. Instead, they also require that a stalker intends to cause emotional suffering to another person with the activities.

2. When Should You Report a Harassing Text to Police?

In addition to stalking laws, many states prohibit harassment, which can be defined as repeated, unwanted contact. Police can follow up on repeated texts that endanger a person's health, safety, and welfare.

3. What Is Cyberstalking?

Harassing texts can be a form of cyberstalking, as can messages sent through social media. There may also be state statutes addressing cyberbullying if the victim is a child.

4. What Proof Do You Need for a Restraining Order?

So how do you stop a stalker? A restraining order or temporary protection order is often the first step. Courts may require evidence of threatening or intimidating behavior. Specific instances of contact are often required: repeated calls or texts, showing up at your home or work, or even contacting friends and family can be the basis for a restraining order.

An existing restraining order can be enforced by police officers, and there are criminal consequences for violating a restraining order. But victims may also be able to file civil suits against a stalker that can also result in monetary compensation for physical or emotional injuries.

If you think you're being stalked and feel unsafe, contact the police or a local attorney for help.

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