Stalking

What is stalking?

Stalking doesn’t always have to be watching an individual with binoculars or following them during their errands. It can be done virtually as well. Examples of stalking actions could be unwanted phone calls, messaging them on social media, leaving messages or objects, or appearing at regular hangout spots of the individual. If there is unwanted communication or attempt of communication then it can be seen as stalking. Stalking is not a one time thing. There has to be multiple points in time where the individual has harassed, attempted to communicate, or any kind of behavior to make the victim feel distressed.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the act of attempting to engage contact or to harass with an individual through the use of electronic mail or websites. The communication is done to cause emotional distress to the individual. This can be done through their email, instant messenger, or social media. The difference between cyberstalking and spamming is that cyberstalking is directed to a specific victim. The stalker is targeting a specific individual or multiple individuals in order to cause them distress.

According to Florida statute, Cyber stalking is classified as the following

(d) “Cyberstalk” means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.

Aggravated stalking

Aggravated stalking is a more serious offense compared to a regular stalking charge. Aggravated stalking occurs when the individual makes a credible threat to the victim.

According to Florida Statute, a credible threat is defined as the following.

(c) “Credible threat” means a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm. It is not necessary to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat. The present incarceration of the person making the threat is not a bar to prosecution under this section.

The threat has to be an action that is within the capability of the stalker. This can also be done through mail or electronic communication.

Penalty

Simple stalking is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum of one year in jail. There are different types of stalking and the penalties can increase depending on specific factors. Cyber stalking is a misdemeanor of the first degree and can lead to a maximum 1-year jail sentence. Aggravated stalking is one of the most serious offenses and is a felony. It is a third-degree felony with a maximum prison sentence of five years.