Despite casual mentions in jests, stalking is no laughing matter. In Maryland, stalking involves intentionally approaching or following a specific person to terrify or cause them emotional distress. It can take on many forms, from taking photos to watching and tracking someone without their knowledge or consent. Regardless of the motivation, stalking is a crime that can result in very serious penalties.
Examples of stalking
A person may be stalking if they actively and continuously follow another person, knowing that it would instill a fear of physical danger, assault, rape, false imprisonment or even death. These days, stalking can occur in person or through electronic means.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, the following are actions that could implicate a person in a stalking case:
- Placing surveillance cameras or microphones inside someone’s home or belongings without their consent to track activity and conversations
- Planting tracking devices in a person’s vehicle to stay updated on their location
- Leaving unwanted gifts, letters and messages
- Damaging someone’s personal property as a threat
- Making unwanted attempts to contact a person repeatedly
- Following someone and showing up wherever they are
- Breaking into another person’s home or workplace
There are only a few instances in which a person may lawfully follow another person, such as to ensure compliance with a court order, to carry out legitimate business-related reasons or when mandated by law.
Penalties for stalking
The effects of stalking can linger on victims, leaving them depressed and anxious for a long time. Many develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fear leaving the safety of their homes.
Knowing that perpetrators often escalate into violence, the state treats stalking claims with great gravity. The maximum penalty for a first-time stalking violation is five years in jail and a fine of $5,000.
Are there legal defenses to stalking charges?
Demonstrating the absence of intent or reasonable fear may help fight stalking charges. Serious allegations like this could benefit from the legal guidance of a criminal defense attorney.