Stalking – C.R.S. 18-3-602
Stalking is an offense that many people have an image of in their head: the ex-significant other or obsessed individual following someone, tracking their online social media, contacting them incessantly, and more. However, in order to fully understand the legal definition of ‘Stalking’ as it defined in under Colorado law, it is important to break the statute down into its most basic elements. The Stalking statute can be found in the Part 6 of Article 3 in Section 18 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.
There are three different types of conduct that are prohibited by the stalking statute.
First, a person will be charged with Stalking if that person:
“Makes a credible threat to another person, and in connection with that threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship.
Second, a person will be charged with Stalking if that person:
“Makes a credible threat to another person, and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensures.
Third, a person will be charged with Stalking if that person:
“Repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress.
What we see in the statute is that the type of behavior most people associate with stalking is only one of the ways in which a person can be charged with Stalking. Under the first two subsections, a threat is the first requirement. Yet, the most common image of a stalker does not always contemplate a threat. Nonetheless, after such a threat is conveyed, the prosecution would also have to prove either repeated in-person contact or remote contact with the threatened person or a person with whom the threatened person is connected.
Under the third approach, and the more traditional understanding of stalking, there are two important requirements. First, the conduct described above: repeated contact, following, or approaching a person or member of their family is required. Second, the victim must have suffered serious emotional distress. It is important to know that a “victim need not show that he or she received professional treatment of counseling to show that he or she suffered serious emotional distress.”
Regardless of which of the three sections that you are charged with, the Prosecution would also need to show that the person exhibited the prohibited behavior “directly, or indirectly through another person” and did so “knowingly.”
Generally, someone charged with Stalking for the first time will be looking at a Class 5 Felony. If someone is looking at a second or subsequent prosecution for stalking then, in that situation, that person would be looking at a Class 4 felony.
It is also important to recognize that, regardless of whether it is your first or subsequent stalking case, a person who is also charged with violating a protection order/bond/probation/parole will also be looking at a Class 4 Felony.
Section 8 of the statute is known as “Vonnie’s law,” and is important as it provides guidelines to the Court for addressing bail and for issuing protection orders in these cases.
The language of the statute is intricate and there is substantial case law, or previous decisions by Courts, that provide insight on how these cases will be handled. For example, in People v. Folsom, 431P.3d 652, the Court decided that “it is not each individual act of stalking that must cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress, but the combined acts of the defendant that would cause such a result.”
As made clear by the different ways that Stalking can be charged and prosecuted, these are often complex cases which may have many different applicable defenses. When you are up against a Stalking charge, you owe it to yourself to fight back with a smart, aggressive defense designed to poke holes in the arguments of the prosecution and minimize any damage done to you. Contact one of our experienced Denver criminal defense attorneys today.