Most people think of stalking as following someone, perhaps watching their social media, or maybe sending dozens of unwanted texts. However, you may be surprised to learn that what constitutes stalking in Texas is extremely objective and poorly defined.
The Elements of Stalking
Texas recently changed its stalking laws. Previously, stalking was defined as someone who knowingly takes repeated actions that would cause fear or be considered threatening.
Now, the law states that stalking constitutes actions “part of a scheme or course of conduct directed specifically at another person.” This is extremely vague and seems to allow alleged victims to make accusations based on circumstantial evidence.
Where the previous law focused on fear and threats, the new code includes another line. An alleged victim can file charges if the accused’s behavior causes them to feel “harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.”
That language is dangerously vague, especially since terms like “annoyed” aren’t defined. This language suggests someone can be charged with a felony for simply being annoying. Put another way, someone could spend two years in jail just for talking to someone who doesn’t like them.
The Intricacies of Stalking
Under the new law, an alleged victim’s friends, family, and significant other are also protected under the law. This has frightening implications when combined with the “part of a scheme or course of conduct” section.
For example, if someone is trying to get back together with a previous partner and they send that person a card and flowers, then try to talk to their new partner, that could be considered “part of the same scheme.” If the previous partner decides to file a police report, that could mean a felony charge over flowers and a short discussion.
The good news is that the law still requires that the accused knowingly conducted these actions. That provides some protection. If someone didn’t know their advances are unwanted, for example, it would be difficult to prove a charge of stalking.
If you were charged with stalking, you might want to seek legal representation. If you’d like an experienced Bryan criminal defense attorney from Rodriguez & Gimbert P.L.L.C. to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (979) 559-3599.