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Stalking is not a joke

As reported by Fox19.com, a 24-year-old man was arrested, accused of following two teenage girls in a department store and then exposing himself to the girls. Apparently the entire scenario was caught on the store security video and the man was quickly identified. Along with public indecency, he was charged with menacing by stalking. The man had been recently convicted of public indecency based on an incident that occurred last January.

While the recent incident is most unfortunate, it does highlight the fact that January is National Stalking Awareness month. Stalking is the butt of many a joke these days, but it is serious. Research by the University of Indiana revealed that a woman who is stalked by a violent and jealous boyfriend is at serious risk of physical harm. But stalking by anyone - stranger or an ex - can be dangerous.

It is important, however, to know what stalking is and the legal implications. Stalking, as defined by Indiana law, is a crime. The statute defines stalking as intentionally engaging in a course of conduct which is directed at a specific person or persons, which seriously annoys, alarms, intimidates, or harasses, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The conduct must be that which causes a reasonable person to "suffer substantial emotional distress." It is worth noting that that statute specifically exempts constitutionally protected activity and leaves it up to the judge to make that determination as a matter of law. What might be constitutional protected activity is far beyond what would fit in this blog.

When a person stalks another and makes any explicit or implicit threat intending to put a person in reasonable fear of of sexual contact, serious physical injury, or death, they may be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor. The same actions can become a D felony if certain other conditions exist. Such other conditions include a protective order having ben issued, a pending criminal complaint by the same victim, a prior felony conviction or guilty plea within the past five years, or having a deadly weapon on or about his person when the stalking occurred.

Harassment is also a criminal offense in Indiana, defined as certain actions which are intended to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, including following a person in or about a public place.

Anyone who is charged with a stalking offense, or harassment, should immediately consult with an experienced Indiana criminal attorney for effective representation. Stalking is serious business.

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