The definition of stalking has grown substantially in recent years. Changes in society, paired with the advent of social media, have fundamentally changed how stalking cases play out. Now, many people aren’t sure what constitutes stalking.
Stalking is a class 4 felony. In Illinois, Stalking is described as a pattern of behavior (meaning on more than one occasion) where someone engages in behavior that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety. To this end, surveillance of that person that causes fear or anxiety is also considered stalking.
Aggravated stalking describes when someone already engaged in a pattern of stalking, either causes bodily harm or restrains another person. This is a class 3 felony and could accompany other charges, such as assault or kidnapping.
Changes to Stalking Policy
Since January 2019, businesses, schools, and churches are also protected under stalking law. That means, for example, if reports show a former employee surveilled a business, then engaged in vandalism or theft, the prosecutor might add a stalking charge as well. That’s what it means to engage in a “pattern of behavior.”
Accusers can claim any form of unwanted communication or interaction as a pattern of stalking. That includes letters, gifts, phone calls, text messages, and social media posts. Because these rules now apply to businesses, schools, and churches, posting negative or threatening comments on their social media could be taken as behavior consistent with stalking.
However, what gives someone feelings of fear or anxiety could be either a miscommunication or a coincidence. For example, unintentionally bumping into a former lover at the grocery store could be considered circumstantial evidence for stalking or surveillance.
Stalking is extremely subjective. That’s why anyone faced with stalking charges should hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to clear up these misconceptions and separate the facts from the fiction.
If you were accused of stalking, you might seek legal representation. If you’d like an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney from Law Office of Steven Fine to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (312) 436-0638.