Unlike harassment, stalking can be charged either as a misdemeanor if there is no prior stalking conviction, or as a felony if the defendant has a prior stalking conviction. Another important distinction in stalking is that the victim can be placed in fear for his or her own safety or for the safety of a household member. In contrast, harassment is focused solely on the impact that the pattern of conduct has on the victim.
As provided in §30-3A-3, stalking consists of:
- A person (defendant) knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct;
- The pattern of conduct is such that it would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated or threatened;
- The defendant must intend to either:
- Place another person in reasonable apprehension of death, bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraint, or
- Cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of a household member;
- In furtherance of the stalking, the defendant must commit one or more of the following acts on more than one occasion:
- Following a person, in a place other than the defendant's residence, or
- Placing a person under surveillance by being present outside that individual's residence, school, workplace, motor vehicle or any other place frequented by that individual, other than the defendant's residence, or
- Harassing a person.
Considering both §30-3A-3 and UJI 14-331, some of the critical matters to keep in mind in stalking cases include:
- Misdemeanor stalking offenses can be heard by either magistrate or metropolitan courts or the district courts. Felony stalking cases are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the district courts.
- Like harassment, stalking must involve a pattern of conduct knowingly and maliciously pursued by the defendant.
- While stalking can take many varied forms, for a crime to occur the defendant must do at least one of the following, and do so more than once: (a) follow the victim; (b) engage in surveillance of the victim; or (c) harass the victim.