When people envision stalking, they think of someone hiding in the shadows watching the person they are obsessed with, eventually leading to harassment and other crimes. That may be the way it is portrayed in movies, but in everyday life, stalking crimes can work a bit differently.
A good example of how different the reality of stalking can be took place in Minneapolis this year. A Minnesota State Patrol trooper was charged with two counts of stalking for taking the cell phone of a woman at the scene of a traffic accident and texting nude photos from her phone to his.
Does it surprise you that the State Trooper’s alleged behavior is considered stalking? Well, the stalking laws in Minnesota are tough. Moreover, they’re considered a form of domestic violence. That’s why it’s important to understand just what stalking is and the possible ways someone can be punished if found guilty of it.
What Exactly Does Minnesota Consider Stalking?
In Minnesota, as in other places, stalking is harassing or intentionally following another person. The attention is unwanted by the victim and is usually a pattern of behavior marked by actions over a period of time. Repeat harassment and threatening behavior toward someone else, whether you know them or not, is considered stalking.
Stalking can impact the lives of just about anyone regardless of their location, sexual orientation, race, or gender. It can also be done by anyone, as evidenced by the Minnesota State Trooper — someone entrusted with public safety who allegedly took advantage of a car accident victim.
Often, victims of stalking live in fear, which is why it can be considered an act of domestic violence.
How Is Stalking Considered Domestic Violence?
Broadly defined, domestic violence is something that includes acts of sexual, physical, economic, or psychological violence. It’s psychological violence that often comes into play in stalking cases, since victims can be terrorized to the point where they may have to move, change their phone numbers, or alter their habits in order to keep themselves safe from stalking.
Anti-Stalking Laws in Minnesota
In Minnesota, state statutes prohibit the harassing of one person by another by engaging in behavior that may cause the victim to feel threatened, intimidated, oppressed, or frightened, regardless of the relationship they may have with the person doing the stalking – including people who were once in a relationship.
Stalking can be charged as either a gross misdemeanor or a felony, it depends on the acts engaged in by the perpetrator.
These acts are associated with stalking as a gross misdemeanor:
- Indirectly or directly injuring a person, property, or the rights of someone else
- Returning to another’s property without authority
- Monitoring, pursuing, or following another through technological or other means
- Sending letters, telegrams, packages, messages, or other objects to the work or home of the victim, including through electronic means
- Repeatedly sending text messages or making phone calls to the victim
These acts are associated with felony stalking, which includes acts in the previous section as well as:
- Possession of a dangerous weapon at the time of stalking offense was taking place
- Targeting a victim under 18 years of age by someone at least 36 months older
- Harassing a victim within 10 years of being discharged from an offense related to domestic violence, such as harassment
- Committing the offense while falsely impersonating another person
- Targeting a victim due to their color, sexual orientation, race, sex, disability, national origin, age, or religion
If it’s established that there’s a pattern of stalking, it’s considered a felony as well but is punishable by more time in jail. To establish a pattern, they must commit these acts within a five-year period:
- Domestic assault
- Violation of an order of protection or restraining order
- Any stalking offense
- Terrorist threats
The Penalties for Minnesota Stalking
The penalty for stalking depends upon what someone is found guilty of. If convicted of a gross misdemeanor, then the result can be a sentence of up to one year in jail and $3,000 in fines.
For felony convictions, five years in prison can be sentenced and fines up to $10,000 imposed. If it’s found that a person has a pattern of stalking behavior, called “Pattern of Stalking Conduct” under the law, then that felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.
Defending against stalking charges is important, especially if you feel as if you’ve been accused wrongly. Still, it’s important to understand what types of behavior are considered stalking under Minnesota law so that you can avoid them and keep stalking charges off your record.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.