Stalking Law Image

Stalking

The offense of Stalking is essentially the more serious, felonious version of the Texas offense of Harassment. Stalking requires repeated instances of harassing or threatening behavior. There is an objective “reasonable” standard placed on the target, so that if someone claims he or she is being stalked, it does not rise to the level of criminal Stalking if he or she is simply oversensitive.

Harassment is a crime of its own in Texas, but Harassment becomes the more severe crime of Stalking if Harassment it occurs on multiple occasions against the same individual and the the accused knowingly engages in the conduct. Even if not defined as Harassment under the Texas Penal Code, behavior threatening bodily harm or an offense against property could be the basis for a Stalking charge.

What is Stalking?

Stalking is defined in the Texas Penal Code in Section 42.072:

(a) A person commits an offense if the person, on more than one occasion and pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct that is directed specifically at another person, knowingly engages in conduct that:

(1) constitutes an offense under Section 42.07, or that the actor knows or reasonably should know the other person will regard as threatening:

(A) bodily injury or death for the other person;

(B) bodily injury or death for a member of the other person’s family or household or for an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship; or

(C) that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property;

(2) causes the other person, a member of the other person’s family or household, or an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship to be placed in fear of bodily injury or death or in fear that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property, or to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended; and

(3) would cause a reasonable person to:

(A) fear bodily injury or death for himself or herself;

(B) fear bodily injury or death for a member of the person’s family or household or for an individual with whom the person has a dating relationship;

(C) fear that an offense will be committed against the person’s property; or

(D) feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.

The state’s attorneys have to prove that you had all of the following in order to obtain a Stalking conviction: (1) one of the specific intents under the Harassment law or knowledge/reasonably should have knowledge that the target of the alleged Stalking would regard communications as threatening, (2) knowingly engaged in the conduct, (3) actually caused someone to feel “fear of bodily injury or death or in fear that an offense will be committed against the other individual’s property, or to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended” (4) committed conduct that was threatening harm or was defined as Harassment. Additionally, as a fifth element, the state must prove that a reasonable person would have feared for their life, property, or felt harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended. A defense attorney can attack the charges against you by challenging any of those elements in addition to all the other standard defense strategies.

The Stalking statute covers acts committed toward an alleged victim’s “family1” or a member of that individual’s “household.”2 The Stalking statute also includes acts towards someone who is in a “dating relationship3” with the alleged Stalking victim.

What are typical instances of Stalking?

Some typical examples of Stalking behavior are repeated threatening or harassing phone calls, following someone, showing up to someone’s workplace, or vandalizing someone’s property.

Can you be convicted of Stalking if you don’t harm anyone or anyone’s property?

You can be charged and convicted of Stalking even if you don’t actually physically harm someone or their property. Stalking means that the behavior causes another to feel threatened or harassed. No actual injury is required. Also, the threats can be explicit, such as a text message or voicemail that says someone is going to hurt another person, or the threats can be implicit. Implicit threats are those such as following someone in an attempt to intimidate them, or indirectly harming their property.

In addition, if you get someone else to make a threat, explicitly or implicitly, then you can still be convicted of Stalking. As a result, you can be convicted of Stalking for the behavior of someone else and without causing any actual injury to that individual or their property.

What type of property does the Stalking law refer to?

The type of property referred to by the Stalking statute includes property such as a car or a pet. If a someone vandalizes your car repeatedly, or vandalizes your car and then a garage door at your house for example, this behavior could be found to be Stalking because its purpose is to harass or threaten you. Another common Stalking charge results from an instance where a someone’s pet is harmed. This may be considered a behavior that implicitly threatens violence. Because property damage may be alleged to implicitly threaten someone with violence, property damage is included in the Stalking statute.

What is the punishment for a conviction of stalking?

The crime of Stalking under the Texas Penal Code is typically a third-degree felony. However, repeated convictions for Stalking offenses can be enhanced to felonies of the second-degree. This is a more severe punishment than the crime of Harassment, a misdemeanor. To see the punishments for third and second-degree felonies in comparison to misdemeanor punishments, see our Range of Punishments page.


Legal References:

1 Family Code Section 71.003 – “Family” includes individuals related by consanguinity or affinity, as determined under Sections 573.022 and 573.024, Government Code, individuals who are former spouses of each other, individuals who are the parents of the same child, without regard to marriage, and a foster child and foster parent, without regard to whether those individuals reside together.

2 Family Code Section 71.005 – “Household” means a unit composed of persons living together in the same dwelling, without regard to whether they are related to each other.

3 Family Code Section 71.0021(b)-(c):
(b) “dating relationship” means a relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing relationship of a romantic or intimate nature. The existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on consideration of: (1) the length of the relationship; (2) the nature of the relationship; and (3) the frequency and type of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship.

(c) A casual acquaintanceship or ordinary fraternization in a business or social context does not constitute a “dating relationship” under Subsection (b)