Stalking is terrifying, dangerous, and sometimes deadly for victims. Beyond the invasion of privacy, stalking creates a virtual prison and constant threat for a person—leaving lasting psychological damage. Because of the emotional trauma, extreme danger, and the “strong connections” between stalking and domestic violence and sexual assault, stalking is a crime in North Carolina.
The Crime of Stalking
Specifically, under North Carolina General Statute § 14-277.3A, a person commits the crime of stalking if:
- the person “willfully on more than one occasion harasses another person without legal purpose or willfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person without legal purpose”; and
- the person “knows or should know that the harassment or the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to” fear for their safety or suffer “substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment.“
Because stalkers are considered unpredictable, the term harassment is intentionally broad. Courts are given wide latitude to consider virtually all forms of communication by a stalker to a victim, including “written or printed communication or transmission, telephone, cellular, or other wireless telephonic communication, facsimile transmission, pager messages or transmissions, answering machine or voice mail messages or transmissions, and electronic mail messages or other computerized or electronic transmissions”. Further, this harassing communication must be shown to torment, terrorize, or terrify the victim and serve “no legitimate purpose”.
Like harassment, a “course of conduct” is similarly broad and encompasses two or more acts “by any action, method, device, or means”, which may include direct or indirect acts of: (1) monitoring; (2) following; (3) surveiling; (4) threatening; (5) communicating to or about; (6) being in the victim’s presence; or (7) interfering with the victim’s property.
The consequences for stalking are serious. Stalking starts off as a Class A Misdemeanor for a first time offender. A second conviction results in a Class F Felony. And an offense committed while a protective order is in place may constitute a Class H felony.
Domestic Violence Protective Order
While the stalking law exists to create a criminal penalty and to push the pause button on escalating conduct, it is only one part of a safety net for victims. We often advise victims to also consider restraining orders or domestic violence protective orders to create an additional layer of protection.
Contact New Direction Family Law
Separations and divorces can bring out the worst in any of us. At New Direction Family Law, we have vast experience in guiding men and women through this dark and turbulent time. Our attorneys are compassionate, intelligent professionals who never lose focus on what your new direction may look like. Let us help you. Our office serves Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Call (919) 719-3470 to schedule a consultation, or contact us online at our website.