Are You Being Stalked?

 A new criminal law on stalking goes into effect in Florida on October 1, 2012.  (See Section 784.0485, Fla. Stat.)  Corresponding changes have been made to the Family Law Rules of Procedure; see especially Section 12.610.

Do you have a cause of action for stalking?  See the statutory definitions below:

Stalking: when a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.  It is a 1st degree misdemeanor.

Aggravated stalking: when a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person and makes a credible threat to that person, or stalks a person after having already had an injunction for protection against domestic violence entered against him, or stalks a person under the age of 16.  It is a 3rd degree felony.

Harass: to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.

Cyberstalk: to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.

Credible threat: a verbal or nonverbal threat, or a combination of the two, including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm. It is not necessary to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat. The present incarceration of the person making the threat is not a bar to prosecution under this section.

All of the above definitions and further information can be found under Florida Statute 784.0485 or by contacting the State Attorney's Office.

This legal update is courtesy of Michael Mattson, Esquire, Mediator.