The Difficulty of Proving Stalking

Stalking remains a continued problem, and states have enacted laws to allow victims to obtain protective orders. These laws, however, remain limited to cases in which the stalker’s behavior has a threatening effect. A recent case in Oregon reiterates the need to prove a reasonable connection between a stalker’s actions and the victim’s fear.

The parties remained friendly for some time after a relationship ended, but eventually the petitioner told the respondent to cease contact. The respondent continued to contact the petitioner by a broad variety of means, ranging from e-mails and texts to monitoring her online dating profile, to sending flowers, to appearing at places she frequented in public and speaking with her. The respondent’s actions increased in frequency and intensity of contact over nearly a year. At no time did the respondent make any violent gestures or threats, but his behavior was clearly obsessive. The respondent had no history of violence or threats. The petitioner testified, however, that she feared for her safety because of what she thought the respondent was capable of.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the petitioner had not proven one necessary point needed to prove stalking: that a reasonable person in her position would find her fear reasonable. The court acknowledged that the contact was continued and unwanted. It acknowledged that the petitioner was frightened. It concluded, however, that that was not enough. The stalking law requires the fear be objectively reasonable, and to prove that, some threatening act or history of threats or violence was required. The petitioner did not get the protective order.

One question that was not presented to the court was whether it would consider an expert’s opinion of the potential course of the respondent’s conduct as enough evidence. Most stalking cases are brought without lawyers or experts, so it will probably be a while before someone tries it.

If you think someone is stalking you, unfortunately, at least n Oregon you will need to carefully review the stalker’s actions and your history with the stalker for violence or an actual or implied threat. If you think that it’s a close call, you may want to consult a lawyer to get an opinion whether you are likely to get a protective order.

 

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