Are You a Legal Professional?

Stalking and Domestic Violence

Stalking and Domestic Violence Overview

Domestic violence situations may also involve stalking of the victim by an estranged partner. Stalking usually involves:

  • Repeated threatening or harassing behaviors, such as phone calls,
  • Following or shadowing a person,
  • Appearing at a person's home or place of employment,
  • Vandalizing property, and
  • Any other activity that makes a person fear for his or her safety.

Stalking laws vary greatly from state to state, with some requiring a minimum of two acts (or other proof that the event was not an isolated occurrence) and others specifying that the threat of harm must be imminent. Some states also classify activities such as lying-in-wait, surveillance, and non-consensual communication as stalking.

In its 1998 research on state codes and stalking, the National Institute of Justice defined stalking as "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear," with "repeated" meaning on two or more occasions. There are three types of stalking:

  • Erotomania, which often involves a person who has a delusional obsession with a public figure or someone out of the stalker's reach;
  • Love obsessional, which involves an individual stalking someone with whom they think they are in love; and
  • Simple obsessional, which is stalking by someone the victim knows.

Domestic violence stalking fits into this last category and is usually perpetrated by an ex-spouse or lover, employer or co-worker.

Stalking Legislation

The following examples of state legislation on stalking illustrate differences in definitions of (and punishment for) stalking and domestic violence legislation.

District of Columbia § 22–3133: (a)It is unlawful for a person to purposefully engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific individual:

(1) With the intent to cause that individual to:

(A) Fear for his or her safety or the safety of another person;

(B) Feel seriously alarmed, disturbed, or frightened; or

(C) Suffer emotional distress;

(2) That the person knows would cause that individual reasonably to:

(A) Fear for his or her safety or the safety of another person;

(B) Feel seriously alarmed, disturbed, or frightened; or

(C) Suffer emotional distress; or

(3) That the person should have known would cause a reasonable person in the individual’s circumstances to:

(A) Fear for his or her safety or the safety of another person;

(B) Feel seriously alarmed, disturbed, or frightened; or

(C) Suffer emotional distress.

(b) This section does not apply to constitutionally protected activity.

(c) Where a single act is of a continuing nature, each 24-hour period constitutes a separate occasion.

(d) The conduct on each of the occasions need not be the same as it is on the others.

Tennessee Code Section 39-17-15: (a)(1) A person commits the offense of stalking who intentionally and repeatedly follows or harasses another person in such a manner as would cause that person to be in reasonable fear of being assaulted or suffering bodily injury or death.

(A) "Follows" means maintaining a visual or physical proximity over a period of time to a specific person in such a manner as would cause a reasonable person to have a fear of an assault, bodily injury, or death;

(B) "Harasses" means a course of conduct directed at a specific person, which would cause a reasonable person to fear a sexual offense, bodily injury, or death, including, but not limited to, verbal threats, written threats, vandalism, or physical contact that was non-consensual;

(C) "Repeatedly" means on two (2) or more occasions.

(b) (1) Stalking is a Class A misdemeanor.

In Tennessee, if there is a subsequent violation of this law within a seven-year period, the offense becomes a class E felony. A subsequent violation denotes a class C felony.

Next Step: Get a Free Case Review

If you or someone you love is in danger of stalking or domestic violence, be sure to contact law enforcement right away. If you have questions about the stalking laws in your state, it is best you speak with a skilled family law attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases. You can begin the process today with a free case review.

Next Steps
Contact a qualified family law attorney to make sure
your rights are protected.
(e.g., Chicago, IL or 60611)

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution