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"Pattern of Conduct" Definitions

Tutorial on the crimes of stalking and harassment for New Mexico judges

Under New Mexico's Harassment and Stalking Act, harassment, stalking and aggravated stalking each, in part, consist of the defendant "knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct…." §§ 30-3A-2 (Harassment); 30-3A-3 (Stalking); 30-3A-3.1 (Aggravated Stalking).

However, the Act does not contain a definition of "pattern of conduct." Likewise other New Mexico statutes and case law do not appear to define this term. Thus, it may be helpful to look elsewhere for guidance as to the meaning of 'pattern of conduct.'

The plain meaning of the words "pattern" and "conduct" can be seen in their dictionary definitions. Miriam Webster defines pattern in several ways, two of which seem relevant: (1) "a reliable sample of traits, acts, tendencies, or other observable characteristics of a person," and (2) "frequent or widespread incidence." Miriam Webster defines conduct as "the act, manner, or process of carrying on."

Stalking statutes from other states, while not controlling, may provide additional insight. A few states define the term "pattern of conduct" in their stalking statutes. For example, the Ohio stalking statute defines the term as follows:

"Pattern of conduct" means two or more actions or incidents closely related in time, whether or not there has been a prior conviction based on any of those actions or incidents.… ORC Ann. §2903.211.D(1).

As another example, Louisiana's stalking statute contains the following definition:

"Pattern of conduct" means a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing an intent to inflict a continuity of emotional distress upon the person…. La. R.S. 14:40.2.C.2.

More states seem to use the defined term "course of conduct" within their stalking statutes, with many states following some variation of the California definition of this term which reads as follows:

"[C]ourse of conduct" means two or more acts occurring over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of "course of conduct." Cal Pen Code §646.9(f).

Additionally, a federal stalking statute, 18 U.S.C. §2261A, uses the term "course of conduct" which is defined in 18 U.S.C. §2266(2) as follows: "The term 'course of conduct' means a pattern of conduct composed of 2 or more acts, evidencing a continuity of purpose."