Stalking is defined as a pattern of malicious behavior that causes victims to fear for their safety. Isolated incidents are not considered stalking. The pattern of unwanted advances or forms of communication initiates the stalking title.
For example, if you receive several texts, phone calls, or emails from someone you have told to stop contacting you, this could be considered stalking. Consistently following or pursuing someone is also considered stalking. If a pattern has developed, unwanted gifts or messages can also be considered stalking.
Stalking laws have come a long way to help protect victims. Read below to learn more about how Texas handles stalking.
How Does Texas Define Stalking?
Almost every state now recognizes stalking as a punishable offense. In Texas, stalking is defined as a person, on more than one occasion and pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct that they know or reasonably should know the other person would regard as threatening, causes the other person or their family members to be in fear, or would cause a reasonable person to be in fear.
The victim may fear bodily injury or death, and they may fear that their family or loved one is in danger of physical harm or death or a fear of damage to personal property. Texas law also goes as far as to list that the victim may be a reasonable person who feels harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended, and this could be considered stalking.
How is Stalking Penalized in Texas?
An offense labeled as stalking is considered a 3rd-degree felony. This charge can carry up to 2-10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for the first offense.
The exception is if the perpetrator has previously been convicted of a similar offense in Texas or another state, a federally recognized Indian tribe, a territory of the US, or under federal law. In this case, they would be charged with a 2nd-degree felony as a second offense. 2nd-degree felonies carry fines of up to $10,000 and up to 2 to 20 years in prison.
Texas (and many states) takes stalking offenses very seriously.
What if the Threat is Not Straightforward?
In some cases, an implied threat is still considered stalking. A direct threat may be apparent to the victim and their families, such as the perpetrator specifically stating what harm they intend to cause through speaking or texts, emails, and more.
An implied threat can be “Wait and see what I’ll do to you” or “You won’t want to find out what I will do to you and your family.” If you have implied threats via text or email, voicemails, or other, keep a record that can’t be tampered with.
What Can I Do if I Feel Like I’m Being Stalked?
First and foremost, ensure that you and your family are safe. Speak with law enforcement and consult an experienced attorney.
Unfortunately, stalking can lead to more escalated violence if not handled appropriately and immediately. There is a reason that all states take stalking seriously, and it is punishable with significant consequences, and you should, too.
Remain vigilant and avoid being alone as much as you can. It is imperative to share with loved ones the threats you are receiving so others are aware of the situation and can help you remain vigilant and protected.
Request that each incident is documented by the police and keep a journal of the events that take place or save a copy of call logs, texts, or emails that create the pattern of stalking so that you can use it to protect yourself in the future.
You can request that you obtain a copy of the incidents that you document through the police department as well. Keeping these copies, along with other facts you have gathered, such as threatening voicemails or texts, can help establish the pattern and put together a viable case against the perpetrator to get the actions to cease.
There are local resources that can help as well. Search for stalking resources that are local to you to gain more knowledge on what you can do to protect yourself.
What if I’m Being Accused of Stalking, and It’s Not True?
In some cases, a person is accused of stalking by a vengeful person, and the claim is unfounded. If you are being charged with stalking and know that you did not intend to do so, you must find an experienced lawyer immediately. If you are falsely accused, and the charges are confirmed, you can see from the information above that you face significant fines and prison time.
An experienced lawyer can help you determine the charges against you and if a lesser charge, such as harassment, is more accurate or no charges at all. In some cases, charges can be dismissed if entirely unfounded.
Stalking is a Serious Offense
In conclusion, whether you are being falsely accused of stalking or are a victim of it, the situation is severe and requires immediate attention.
Don’t go through this alone. Seek the skilled guidance of an experienced attorney to help you sift through the facts and form a strategy to defend and protect yourself and your family.
Contact our office at (254) 523-4446 today to learn how we can best assist you moving forward. Our firm has multiple years of helping clients and their families with several areas of law, and we are confident we can help you, too.