Thursday, December 27, 2007

Texas Stalking Law

Occasionally, someone involved in a Texas Divorce or other Texas Family Law process has issues that require criminal law enforcement. A spouse, a former spouse, or father or mother may be stalked by the opposing party in Texas Family Law case.

A stalker is someone who tries to control his or her victim through behavior or threats intended to intimidate and terrify. A stalker can be an unknown person, an acquaintance or a former intimate partner. A stalker's state of mind can range from obsessive love to obsessive hatred. A stalker may follow a victim off an on for a period of days, weeks or even years. A stalking victim feels reasonable fear of damage to property, bodily injury or death to self, family or household member.

Texas Stalking Law: Section 42.072 Penal Code
Penalty: 3rd Degree Felony
Punishment: Two to 10 years in prison and fine up to $10,000; if there is a prior conviction for stalking, the penalty is upgraded to a 2nd degree felony and two to 20 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $10,000.

The stalker has the intent or knowledge that his/her actions will instill fear of death or bodily injury to the victim or a member of the victim's family or household. Threats can be explicit (e.g.- stating that he or she is going to kill the victim) or implied (e.g.- veiled threats, hurting a family pet). Threats have to be aimed at a specific person; they cannot be general threats. Threats may be conveyed by the stalker or by someone acting on behalf of the stalker.

To be convicted, the stalking conduct has to occur on more than one occasion and be directed toward the victim and/or the victim's family or household members. The act may include threatening contact by mail or phone or causing damage to the victim's property.

If you think that you are being stalked:

  • Notify the local law enforcement and prosecutor's offices. All stalking incidents should be immediately reported to the police. Request that each incident be documented. Request a copy of the report from your local law enforcement agency. Give police any written correspondence from the stalker.
  • If you are involved in a divorce, or case involving a child, and are being stalked, call an experienced Texas Family Law Attorney about obtaining a protective order. If you are related to the stalker by blood or marriage, if you ever lived together, if you have a child in common, or if you have or used to have a relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the offender, you should get a protective order.
  • Keep a diary. Obtain names and addresses of witnesses. Complete records are essential to obtaining a protective order and successful prosecution in stalking cases. Write a description of each incident.
  • Record telephone conversations. Tell the stalker to stop calling and hang up. Screen your calls. Write down the time and date the stalker calls. Keep recorded messages and give them to law enforcement and your attorney.
  • Keep all correspondence, including e-mails. Make a copy of anything you receive from the stalker. If it is a letter, touch it as little as possible and place it in a plastic bag will preserve fingerprints.
  • Tell everyone. Give friends, co-workers and neighbors a description of the stalker. Ask them to document each time they see the stalker.

Remember that stalking is a crime in Texas. Do not dismiss any threat, whether written or verbal. Call the police and consult a lawyer.