What is stalking?
Stalking, in legal terms, is defined as threatening, harassing or following a particular person. The purpose of those activities may be to cause fear for their own safety. The victim may worry that the perpetrator will inflict bodily harm to them or someone else that they know.
Current laws in the state of Maryland don’t concentrate on a single act of stalking. Instead, they’re more concerned about a person’s pattern of behavior. An individual who is accused of stalking must have a consistent course of action that could lead the plaintiff to believe that the defendant intended to harm them.
Maryland stalking laws prohibit a person from undertaking a course of conduct that is harmful or evil in nature. This includes approaching or following a particular person with the intent of causing their target to either put them in harm’s way or reasonably fear that the perpetrator would perform one or more of the following acts:
- Incarcerate them without proper legal authority (also known as false imprisonment).
- Kill them.
- Cause them significant bodily injury.
- First or second-degree assault.
- Actual or attempted rape or other kind of sexual offense.
- Any or all of the actions listed above committed against a third party.
Stalking can be in person, over telephone or on the Internet. Some people have been subject to harassing or threatening phone calls, emails or direct messages. The person making those attempts to contact their target must also be repeated and it should be obvious that intent to harm, humiliate, threaten or bother someone existed during those efforts. Current state laws also take actions that can cause sustained emotional distress for a person into consideration as well.
Why would a person stalk someone?
There are many reasons why someone would choose to stalk another person. They could be a former spouse or romantic partner who hasn’t moved on after the relationship ended. It could be a former employee wanting revenge on their employer, or a celebrity that the particular individual is infatuated with. Some stalkers also choose their victims at random.
Just remember that if someone has tried to stalk you, it’s not your fault. Whether you know the perpetrator or not, you have every right to be concerned and speak up for yourself. Stalking is illegal and punishable by law.
Is stalking a crime?
Stalking is considered a misdemeanor in the state of Maryland. Stalking convictions typically result in a fine and/or jail time. Certain stalking acts could also be viewed as harassment. Just because it isn’t as serious as other types of crimes, doesn’t mean that any stalking attempts should be ignored or taken lightly.
What are the penalties for stalking?
Offenders may be required to pay a fine of up to $5,000 and/or serve a jail term of no more than five years. These penalties can increase for each additional violation or if the person who was charged with stalking had also been found guilty of other sex crimes. Sentences for stalking and other related crimes may be concurrent or separate. The judge will determine how those sentences will be served.
What should I do if someone has been stalking me?
If you’ve been the victim of stalking, you should contact your local law enforcement office as soon as possible. The police officer who responds will ask you several questions. You may press charges against the offender if necessary.
You may want to request a protective order if the stalker is a former romantic partner or a relative. A peace order may be suitable if the offender is a coworker, neighbor, friend, acquaintance or stranger. Peace and protective orders can be valid anywhere from a few days up to a year, depending on the type of order and the protection that is being sought.
What can I do if I’ve been accused of stalking?
You can represent yourself or enlist the aid of legal counsel if you’ve been accused of stalking someone else. You will be referred to as the defendant during court proceedings, and the person who made the accusations will be known as the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s side will present evidence, witnesses and testimony to corroborate their claim.
You can plead guilty to the charges or you can dispute them. You may bring forth your own testimony, evidence or witnesses to disprove the claims that stalking acts occurred. Stalking must be proven and there must have been more than one incident. The actions must also be verified as being deliberate and that they were intended to cause harm to the plaintiff.
Stalking crimes can be rather subjective. One person’s idea of offensive behavior may differ from what comes to another individual’s mind. That’s why it’s important to document any such actions if possible. That way, they’re much easier to prove in a court of law than relying on a witness’ memory or having to determine whether or not certain testimony could be dismissed as hearsay.
It’s perfectly normal to have questions about stalking, whether you’ve been a victim of stalking or if you’ve been accused of stalking someone else. We’re here to help. Call us today to set up a no-obligation consultation. Our trained professionals will listen to what you have to say and provide valuable advice for possible next steps. We can even represent you in court if you so choose.
Our primary goal is to help you get back on your feet again. You may be viewed differently by your friends, relatives, colleagues and members of the community for a while. They may perceive you in a different light, even if they have no real reason to do so.
It may take a few weeks or months after the initial charges have been made for things to return to normal. If the case goes to trial, it will inevitably disrupt your life, which is to be expected. However, you’ll probably back to your old routines before you realize it.