What Actions and Behaviors Constitute a Charge of Stalking in Texas?
The psychology and human behavioral reasons behind stalking can be complex, but the singular thing that stalking events have in common is the unlawful exercise of attempted control over another individual.
And whether the stalker is successful or not, the actions tend to become more severe with time, frequently leading to a violent or physically threatening situation.
The largest American survey to date about stalking revealing some startling statistics.
The survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled “Prevalence and Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, and Intimate Partner Violence Victimization —
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011” revealed that:
- 5.1 million American woman and 2.4 million men had been egregiously stalked in the past year.
- 1 in every 6 women have been stalked in their lifetime.
- 1 out of every 19 men have been stalked.
- 3 out of 4 stalking victims know their stalkers in some capacity; this relationship is most often a former intimate partner, spouse or unrequited relationship.
- 66% of female respondents indicated that they were stalked by former and current partners.
It is for this reason that the Texas Penal Code has significant provisions for stalking and harassment. And there are two important takeaways from my article that I would like to share with my readers. First, even if it seems romantic or innocent, if it is unwanted by the other individual, you are in legal jeopardy. Second, that the consequences for stalking are more than a simple ‘slap on the wrist’ because Texas takes the threat of stalking seriously, to provide protection and legal recourse for victims.
What the Texas Penal Code States About Stalking
Texas Penal Code §42.072. defines that stalking occurs when a person (who at least on two occasions) participates in actions or behavior that the other party may consider threatening to their safety wellbeing. This also includes threatening, acts of intimidation, or harassment of family members related to the targeted individual, under §71.00.
You do not have to threaten an individual verbally, or in writing to be charged with a stalking offense. All that is required is that the victim feels fear or embarrassment, fear of death and bodily injury, and a reasonable belief that you will damage their personal property.
Prosecutors do not require the act of malice to be committed (or evidence of property damage) in order to pursue a legal charge of stalking. It is enough for the victim to provide evidence of threats that substantiate their fear of reprisal or action, to warrant legal action.
Stalking is the Highest Form of Harassment: Know Your Legal Boundaries
Relationships can be complicated, and sometimes at the end of a relationship, one person is more reluctant to move on. Both men and woman can be susceptible to crossing the limits when it comes to persistence for reconciliation and find themselves caught in the legal cross hairs on a charge of stalking or harassment.
What you may think is a determination to reconcile a relationship, can be easily viewed as threatening by the other party. In fact, disregarding romantic notions, the act of stalking is viewed by the penal code as a mental assault, almost equal to physical violence.
Some of the qualifying acts of stalking include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Constantly calling, texting or approaching an individual on social media. Creating new telephone numbers or email address, and social profiles to continue to reach that person (even after they have blocked you from the communication method).
- Showing up at the individual’s workplace, if you are not employed there, or have no legitimate business reason for being at the location.
- Showing up at the individual’s home, or the residence or workplace of other family members and friends to inquire about the individual, or in the hope of seeing them at that location by frequenting it for no other reason. This can also include conversations or harassment of a new individual who your previous partner may be dating.
- Following the individual on foot, or in a vehicle.
- Providing unwanted gifts to the individual.
When someone you have been previously involved with (or in some cases, someone you wish to know who has rebuked your invitation) has indicated that they are ‘not interested’ in socializing with you, it’s important to take that notice seriously. What happens when you persistently continue to place yourself in and around that individual’s daily life? Over time, they can become threatened and take legal action, and file a complaint to law enforcement as a legitimate victim of stalking.
What Is Cyber Stalking and Does It Have the Same Legal Consequences in Texas?
Today more than ever before, people are living ‘their best life’ on social media. While it’s fun and a great way to share and keep in touch with family and friends, it also has presented new opportunities and legal issues regarding stalking.
When a relationship goes wrong or ends, it is not uncommon for individuals to block each other on social media channels. It’s part of the distancing that happens, as people move forward with their lives, and they expect that privacy to be respected. We know that’s not always the case.
The Texas Penal Code, Title 7 ‘Offenses Against Property’ Chapter 33, defines computer crimes that both impact the information of an individual and online harassment, as well as the devices, computers and online property that an individual may have (including blogs, websites and social media pages).
The following activities constitute illegal cyber stalking in the State of Texas:
- Attempt or successful activities that intercept an individual’s private information contained online. This can include accessing photographs, folders and other personal information, after the individual is no longer sharing them with you.
- Has solicited the attention or shared inappropriate content (images, videos) or language and communication with a minor in the State of Texas.
- Unlawful de-encryption of secured information, such as hacking an email, website or social media account. The penalties for these activities vary depending on the potential loss amount (or threat experienced) by the rightful property or collateral owner.
- Sending emails, instant messages or publishing blog articles or comments on social media or mainstream media websites using that individual’s name, screen name or otherwise. It is illegal to impersonate someone without their permission online, for negative (or positive) purposes.
The State Penalties for a Charge of Stalking
The first offense of stalking once convicted, carries a prison sentence of 2-10 years and a maximum fine of $10,000. The second offense for stalking carries a mandatory sentence of 2-20 years, with a maximum fine of $10,000.00
We know that emotions run high sometimes in personal relationships and friendships. Sometimes the anger and frustration we all feel is legitimate. But when someone has made it clear that they do not wish to associate with you anymore, and if you continue to press that issue, you are creating emotional stress and duress for that person.
It is not persistence; it’s harassment and threatening to them, and they are within their right to seek legal action. This can include a restraining order, and / or a formal charge of stalking and harassment.
When the Red and Blue lights are lit, call Britt!
Schedule your free legal consultation.