All 50 states and the District of Columbia consider stalking a crime, but the definition of stalking and the ways in which victims can get help differs by state. In 1997, D.C. passed the anti-stalking laws that stand now defining stalking as conduct on more than on occasion that with the "intent to cause emotional distress to another or places another person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury by willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing that person."
In the D.C. Criminal Code, the Council of the District of Columbia calls attention to the need for anti-stalking legislation, referring to stalking as a "serious problem" in the city and noting stalkings intrinsic link to violence,
The Council recognizes the dangerous nature of stalking as well as the strong connections between stalking and domestic violence and between stalking and sexual assault.Criminal code states that it is unlawful for a person to purposefully engage in conduct targeted towards a specific individual with or without the intent to cause that individual to fear for their safety or the safety of someone else, to feel seriously alarmed, or to suffer emotional distress. Types of conduct can include following and monitoring the victim, as well as committing violent acts and making threats.
Anyone convicted of stalking in D.C. for the first time can be punished by up to a $1,000 fine, 12 months in prison, or both. Those penalties are subject to increase if the stalker has prior stalking convictions.
While D.C. has no civil laws allowing victims to sue their stalkers, they can file for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) that mandate stalkers stay away from their victims as well as end all communication with them. A CPO can also grant victims temporary custody if the stalker and victim have children and force stalkers to surrender any firearms they may own.
To be awarded a CPO in the District, the individual filing the request must show good cause that the person they are accusing has committed or has threatened to commit stalking.
For more information on stalking and civil protection orders by state, visit the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic Violence website here.
There are 6.6 million people stalked in the United States each year. Only half of stalking cases are reported to authorities. If you are being stalked take action: contact the police, create a safety plan, and record any incidences of stalking. For more information on how you can get help in D.C. follow this link.
Yours in Advocacy,