Stalking is a serious crime. Even though it is vague, convictions can carry harsh punishments depending on the circumstances involved.
What is the legal definition of Stalking?
Stalking is defined in NRS 200.575.
- A person who, without lawful authority, willfully or maliciously engages in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful for the immediate safety of a family or household member, commits the crime of stalking. Except where the provisions of subsection 2 or 3 are applicable, a person who commits the crime of stalking:
- For the first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
- For any subsequent offense, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
- A person who commits the crime of stalking and in conjunction therewith threatens the person with the intent to cause the person to be placed in a reasonable fear of death or substantial bodily harm commits the crime of aggravated stalking. A person who commits the crime of aggravated stalking shall be punished for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.
- A person who commits the crime of stalking with the use of an Internet or network site, electronic mail, text messaging or any other similar means of communication to publish, display or distribute information in a manner that substantially increases the risk of harm or violence to the victim shall be punished for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2 of NRS 200.571, a criminal penalty provided for in this section may be imposed in addition to any penalty that may be imposed for any other criminal offense arising from the same conduct or for any contempt of court arising from the same conduct.
- The penalties provided in this section do not preclude the victim from seeking any other legal remedy available.
- As used in this section:
- “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct which consists of a series of acts over time that evidences a continuity of purpose directed at a specific person.
- “Family or household member” means a spouse, a former spouse, a parent or other person who is related by blood or marriage or is or was actually residing with the person.
- “Internet or network site” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 205.4744.
- “Network” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 205.4745.
- “Provider of Internet service” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 205.4758.
- “Text messaging” means a communication in the form of electronic text or one or more electronic images sent from a telephone or computer to another person’s telephone or computer by addressing the communication to the recipient’s telephone number.
- “Without lawful authority” includes acts which are initiated or continued without the victim’s consent. The term does not include acts which are otherwise protected or authorized by constitutional or statutory law, regulation or order of a court of competent jurisdiction, including, but not limited to:
- Picketing which occurs during a strike, work stoppage or any other labor dispute.
- The activities of a reporter, photographer, camera operator or other person while gathering information for communication to the public if that person is employed or engaged by or has contracted with a newspaper, periodical, press association or radio or television station and is acting solely within that professional capacity.
- The activities of a person that are carried out in the normal course of his or her lawful employment.
- Any activities carried out in the exercise of the constitutionally protected rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
So what does that mean?
Stalking is a vague crime, mostly because it centers on the victim’s feeling about what is happening more so than the actual conduct of the accused. In other words, it is possible to convicted of stalking, even if you were not intending to stalk the victim.
Stalking depends only on two factors:
- The accused’s conduct, must be intentional;
- The conduct must cause a reasonable person to fear for their immediate safety or the immediate safety of a family or household member.
But you just said that the accused could be convicted even if they weren’t intending to stalk the victim?
That is true. Stalking only requires that the conduct itself was intentional, not that the conduct was intended to frighten the victim. In other words, you may decide to follow someone with no intent to frighten them, only to follow them and see where they are going. However, if the person then has a reasonable fear resulting from your conduct, then you may still be found guilty of stalking.
This is just one of the many ways in which conduct can be intentional without intending to frighten. So long as the victim has a reasonable fear of the immediate safety, then your conduct may be considered stalking.
What do you mean by “reasonable fear”?
Reasonable is, by definition, a vague term. Essentially, it only means that a reasonable person, in other words the average person, would feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, harassed or fearful because of your conduct.
Okay, so then how can the victim be stalked if they are afraid for a family member?
As noted above, stalking is a vague crime that involves how the victim reacts to your conduct. Someone who feels that they are being followed may be more in fear for their family’s safety than their own. This is often the case when a parent feels that someone’s conduct is threatening, their fear will be centered more on what may happen to their child than what might happen to themselves.
What are the possible penalties?
The penalties for Stalking are dependent on three questions:
- What is the extent of the accused’s criminal history?
- What is the extent of the stalking?
- Was the internet used as part of the stalking?
The answers to these three questions will determine the potential penalties:
- On a first offense, where the victim did not fear substantial bodily harm and the internet was not used, the crime will be charged as a misdemeanor, carrying with possible penalties of:
- Up to 6 months in jail; and/or
- Possible fines up to $1,000.
- For subsequent offenses where the victim does not fear substantial bodily harm and the internet was not used, the crime will be charged as a gross misdemeanor, carrying possible penalties of:
- Up to 364 days in jail; and/or
- Possible fines up to $2,000.
- For any offense where the internet was used, but the victim was not in fear of substantial bodily harm, the crime will be charged as a category C felony, carrying possible penalties of:
- Between 1 and 5 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $10,000.
- For any offense where the victim was in fear of substantial bodily injury, the crime will be charged as a category B felony, carrying with it possible penalties of:
- Between 2 and 15 years in a Nevada State Prison; and
- Possible fines up to $5,000.
Is there anything else I should know about the penalties?
Generally speaking, where there are stalking charges, judges will impose a temporary protective order, usually shortened to “TPO”, and sometimes referred to as a restraining order. In some cases, the judge may also issue an extended protective order. If the accused then violates a TPO, they will face separate charges for that violation. For a more in-depth discussion of TPO’s, please click here.
Please Note: Stalking is a crime that may be considered a “crime of moral turpitude.” As such, an immigrant charged with stalking may be deported if convicted.
Are there any Defenses?
Yes, of course there are. In fact, harassment is an extremely vague charge that is difficult to prove. Some of the possible defenses include:
- False Accusations – Many times, false accusations can arise out of revenge or anger. If you can show that the victim was lying about the conduct they believe was “stalking,” then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
- Lawful Actions – If your conduct was constitutionally protected in some way, or because your actions had legal authority because they were within the scope of your job, then you cannot be convicted of stalking and the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
- Reporter’s Privilege – If you were acting as a reporter, photographer, or some other legitimate news-gatherer, then your actions are not considered stalking as you are performing a public function in trying to provide news-worthy information to the public. If you can prove that you were acting in such a news-gathering capacity, then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed.
What should I do if I’ve been charged with Stalking?
As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.