The term "stalker" is often used lightly by teenagers and college students.
However, even when used in a mocking or playful tone, there may be a reason behind the word's prevalence among young people.
Why is stalking more common among young people?
One study found over one-third of young people surveyed admitted to stalking-like behavior.
Research indicating that cyber-stalking has increased in recent years has lead experts to believe that social media and dating sites may contribute to influencing this type of behavior in young people.
What behaviors are legally classified as stalking?
Stalking is defined as an unwanted pursuit or secret surveillance of another person.
Colorado law defines "stalking" as the following actions if the actions have caused emotional distress to the victim:
- Making a credible threat to another person and following or repeatedly communicating with the person or the person's immediate family/friends
- Repeatedly following, approaching or contacting another person or the person's immediate family/friends
- Surveillance of another person or the person's immediate family/friends
Stalking is not limited to acts committed in person. It can come in the form of unwanted gifts, texts, emails, calls, and GPS tracking.
Victims are not required to prove serious emotional distress with proof of counseling or professional treatment in order to press charges.
What are the penalties for stalking?
Penalties for stalking are not taken lightly. For the first offense, a defendant may face class 5 felony charges, punishable by a jail time between one and three years and a fine between $1,000 and $100,000.
The defendant may also be issued a temporary or permanent protective order from the victim.
Within 7 years of a previous stalking offense, a defendant may face class 4 felony charges for subsequent offenses. Class 4 felony charges are punishable by jail time between two and six years and a fine between $2,000 and $500,000.
Ask an attorney for clarification
If you have been accused of stalking or are unsure about whether your actions would constitute a charge, talk to a lawyer to learn more. A criminal defense lawyer can look at the facts of your unique circumstance and clarify your rights and legal options.