Many people are familiar with the term ‘stalking,’ but because this offense is commonly charged at the state level, individuals are often surprised to learn that they are facing federal charges. Under certain conditions, a stalking charge can quickly turn into a federal offense and when they do, it is important to speak to a lawyer experienced with the federal criminal justice system.

The Definition of Stalking Under Federal Law

The federal statute that governs stalking defines the offense as:

  • Placing another person in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury or death to themselves, their family members, spouse, or intimate partners, or
  • Causing, or attempting to cause, significant emotional distress to the victim, or
  • Acting with the intent to injure, harass, kill, or intimidate the victim
  • Placing a victim under surveillance in an effort to injure, harass, kill, or intimidate them

In order for stalking to be considered a federal offense, rather than a state crime, the accused must cross state lines, enter or exit tribal land, or engage in interstate commerce while committing the crime. Although these conditions may sound drastic, a person may face federal charges for stalking if they used the telephone, Internet, or postal service to commit the crime.

Understanding the Terms of Stalking

Over the years, the courts have had to define certain terms within the stalking statute. The definition of these terms are as follows:

  • Course of conduct: One single act of harassment is not considered stalking. Instead, the accused must show a course of conduct, which is a pattern of similar behavior meant to intimidate or harm.
  • Harass: The courts have determined that harassment involves repeated words or conduct, as well as other actions that have no purpose other than to alarm, distress, or annoy the victim.
  • Substantial emotional distress: The courts have ruled that ‘substantial emotional distress’ includes shame, shock, grief, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, depression, humiliation, and shame.
  • Intent: Like in most criminal cases, the prosecution must show that the accused individual had the intent to place the alleged victim in fear of injury, death, or emotional distress. The prosecution will use the defendant’s own voicemails, texts, and postings to social media to prove intent.

Penalties for Stalking

Stalking may sound like a minor offense to some but for those convicted, the crime comes with harsh penalties. Individuals convicted of stalking will face up to five years in federal prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both.

Our Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer can Help You Beat the Charges

The consequences for stalking are serious at a state level, but they become much harsher when someone is charged at the federal level. If you have been arrested or charged with stalking, our skilled Chicago criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel can help. Attorney Garfinkel has the necessary experience to provide the valid defense your case needs so you have the best chance of beating the charges. Call us today at 312-270-0999 to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help.


The post Stalking Can Quickly Become a Federal Offense appeared first on .