It can be an unsettling and frightening experience – or just a very annoying one – to be on the receiving end of unwanted attention. Stalking is a crime that, while not exclusive to romantic relationships, is most often associated with them in the public mind. In fact, anyone can commit stalking, regardless of the “relationship status” of the stalker and the victim. Whether by your ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, ex-husband or a total stranger, no one deserves to be the target of stalking.
The crime of stalking in Utah is defined by statute; the full text can be found here. Although this definition is particular to Utah, the laws of many other states define stalking in very similar terms. If you’re wondering whether your ex’s behavior might qualify as stalking, try searching your state’s code to get an idea of the exact definition in your part of the country. Common behaviors that can qualify as sufficient grounds for a stalking offense include:
* Following, photographing, or surveilling the victim
* Approaching/confronting the victim
* Showing up at the victim’s home or workplace
* Leaving an object at the victim’s home or workplace
* Talking with the victim’s neighbors or coworkers about the victim
* Trying to obtain or distribute information about the victim to others
Sometimes, behaviors like these may be completely innocuous, depending on the circumstances surrounding them. Only if a “reasonable person” in your shoes would suffer emotional distress because of them are such behaviors considered to be stalking. Note that the intentions of the person who is behaving this way are irrelevant; the law is focused entirely on the effect those behaviors have on the victim.
Fortunately, you don’t have to endure such unwelcome intrusions on your privacy or safety. A Stalking Injunction (SI) is a special type of court order which prohibits someone from stalking you. To obtain one, you must file the appropriate paperwork, supported by evidence that demonstrates why you feel you are being stalked. If the Court is persuaded, it will issue a temporary SI directing the stalker (called the “Respondent” in the paperwork) to cease their inappropriate behavior. The Court will also schedule a hearing to determine whether to make the temporary SI into a permanent one. Both sides may call witnesses to testify, including themselves, at this hearing. The rules governing this process are set out in Utah Code Title 77, Chapter 3A, Section 101.
Ask yourself whether the actions of another are causing you to feel frightened, anxious, or just plain “creeped out.” If the answer is yes, please contact one of our family law attorneys, who can help you regain a sense of control over your life.