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Stalking

ARE YOU BEING STALKED?

A CITIZEN’S GUIDE TO

MICHIGAN’S ANTI-STALKING LAWS

Published by the Michigan Women’s Commission

On January 1, 1993, Michigan joined 28 other states by criminalizing stalking behavior in an effort to protect victims of harassment and put an end to stalking.  When Governor John Engler signed Public Acts 251, 260, 261, and 262 of 1992, he provided Michigan citizens with the strongest anti-stalking laws in the nation.  Due to the fact that much of the conduct of the typical non-assaultive stalker is not illegal, the legislature took extreme caution to draft a definition of stalking that will be easy to use and will not infringe on the constitutional or other rights of citizens.

STALKING IS DEFINED AS:

“…a ‘willful course of conduct’ involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, ‘harassed’, or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.”  Michigan Penal Code MCLA 750.411 h.

In this definition, “willful course of conduct” refers to a pattern of behavior made up of a series of two or more separate and noncontinuous acts which share the same purpose.  The term “harassed” is defined as repeated contact without permission, resulting in emotional distress.

YOU ARE BEING STALKED

Exercise your legal rights:

Get an anti-stalking restraining order from your local circuit court (this order states that the stalker is to have no contact with the victim; if violated, criminal penalties will follow). This will not only protect you, but also assist the law enforcement agency in enforcing the anti-stalking law. It also increases the penalties should the stalker violate the restraining order. [MCLA 600. 2950]

You may also bring a civil action against your stalker.   This allows you to sue him or her for any damage they have done, your emotional harm, and may entitle you to exemplary damages and legal fees as well. [MCLA 600.2954]

As a victim, your best weapon against stalkers is the local law enforcement agency.  They are a means of protection as well as a source for referrals.  However, it is also important to have support from your friends and/or family during this emotionally distressing event.

Do not minimize the danger of being stalked – too many people have already been killed. Take action and survive!

WHAT TO DO IF…

Remember, you neither wanted nor deserved to be stalked. You are the victim, not the criminal. Suggestions of what to do if stalked are listed below.  Every situation is different, so there are no set guidelines.  Use your own judgement as to what actions to take.  Communicate to the stalker that you do not want any contact with him/her.  Report to your local law enforcement agency that you are a victim of stalking, whether or not you plan to file formal charges. Build your case against the stalker by providing the police with any or all of the following:

  • Documentation (personal journal or diary) of the stalker’s activities
  • Taped recording(s) of threatening telephone calls.
  • Videotape of stalker’s actions.
  • Basic identifying information (i.e. license plate number, make of car, personal appearance).
  • List of contacts with the stalker (i.e. time, place, what was said, letters received).

STALKING TAKES MANY FORMS

According to the anti-stalking laws, a person can be charged with stalking for willfully and repeatedly contacting another individual, without permission, causing that person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested. Under these laws, assailants could be charged with stalking for repeatedly:

  • Following or appearing within the sight of another.
  • Approaching or confronting another individual in a public or private place.
  • Appearing at the work place or residence of another.
  • Entering or remaining on an individual’s property.
  • Contacting by telephone.
  • Sending mail or electronic mail.

WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?

Unfortunately, stalking is not a rare or unusual activity. Anyone can be a victim of stalking – ordinary citizens or celebrities. According to the below listed statistics, your chance of being a victim of stalking is high, especially if you are a woman.  One out of 20 adults will be stalked in their lifetime. One-third of women in domestic violence shelters are victims of stalking.

PUNISHMENT

Stalking is a misdemeanor offense. When individuals are convicted of stalking, they have the following punishment [MCLA 750.411h]:

  • Up to one year imprisonment, or
  • Up to $1,000 in fines, or both.
  • Up to five years probation.

The order of probation may include an order to:

  • stop stalking anyone.
  • stop having any contact with the victim.
  • be evaluated to determine the need for psychological or social counseling (at the stalker’s expense).

Aggravated stalking is a felony and involves at least one of the following [MCLA 750.411i]:

One or more threats to kill or physically harm an individual – or a member of an individual’s household or family – that causes the individual hearing the threat to fear for his or her safety or the safety of another. The violation of a condition of a pre-trial release or condition of probation or bond for stalking.

When an individual is convicted of aggravated stalking the punishment is:

  • Up to five years imprisonment, or
  • Up to $10,000 in fines, or both.
  • Any term of years probation (including life), but not less than five years probation.

The violation of a restraining order.

  • A repeat offense.

The order of the probation is the same as that of the misdemeanor, with the following addition: the stalker is not allowed contact with the victim’s family members or with people in the victim’s household. Anyone can be a stalker – someone you know well, a casual acquaintance, or a total stranger. Sometimes stalkers are former romantic partners of their victims.

Victims can take precautions such as:

  • Travel with friends.
  • Do not walk alone.
  • Change your telephone number to an unlisted number.
  • Vary the times and routes you take to work or to frequently visited places.
  • Notify your family and friends, and explain the situation to your employer so that they may protect you at work.

For further information, contact your local law enforcement agency or any of the following:

National Center for Victims of Crime (800) 394-2255
http://www.ncvc.org/src