Stalking is a thorny problem in society, as such behavior can place a person in a persistent state of fear. Unfortunately, stalking laws often contain broad language and have been applied to conduct that is more innocent, than criminal.
Consider that Tennessee law defines stalking as “a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.”
This means it would only take two “consecutive actions” with a continuity of purpose for the activity to be considered stalking. The law further defines “unconsented contact” as “any contact with another person that is initiated or continued without that person’s consent, or in disregard of that person’s expressed desire that the contact be avoided or discontinued.”
The law lists the following examples of “unconsented contact:”
- Following or appearing within the sight of that person;
- Approaching or confronting that person in a public place or on private property;
- Appearing at that person’s workplace or residence;
- Entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by that person;
- Contacting that person by telephone;
- Sending mail or electronic communications to that person; or
- Placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by that person.
Let’s say that you are in a relationship with another person and that relationship turns sour. You send a couple of e-mail messages in which your intent is simply to repair the relationship or perhaps salvage a friendship. However, the other party may view those e-mail messages as “unconsented contact” and claim that those messages place her or him in fear. The reality is that even a couple of innocent telephone calls could be considered “unconsented contact” within the meaning of this law.
What if you happen to shop at the same local grocery store as a person with whom you previously had a relationship? The person may be overly sensitive and believes that you are following them when in actuality you are simply attempting to go about your business and live your life.
The law also prohibits behavior that is “intimidating” to the alleged victim. But, this language is too vague. What exactly is intimidating behavior- reasonable minds certainly can differ.
For example, you may merely say hello to a person, but the other person claims that they felt intimidated.
These above examples show that the broad language of the Tennessee stalking laws can criminalize innocent behavior.
If you are charged with stalking, consult with experienced criminal defense attorneys at PNC Law.