Topic:
CRIME; CRIMINAL LAW;
Location:
CRIMINAL LAW;

OLR Research Report


April 23, 2008

 

2008-R-0262

STALKING LAWS

By: Meghan Reilly, Legislative Fellow

You asked for a comparison of the stalking laws in Connecticut and neighboring states.

SUMMARY

Among the New England states, Connecticut has a relatively broad definition of stalking. Connecticut law differentiates between three degrees of stalking based on intent and prior offenses. In Connecticut, recklessly causing another person to fear for his or her physical safety by willfully and repeatedly following or lying in wait for that person constitutes third-degree stalking. The added element of intent constitutes second-degree stalking. Previous stalking convictions, violating a court order, or stalking a victim under age 16 constitutes first-degree stalking. This is different from most other New England states; only New Hampshire also includes “reckless” behavior. Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont require an element of intentional or willful behavior.

Connecticut penalties range from six months imprisonment, a $1,000 fine, or both for third-degree stalking up to one to five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both for first-degree stalking. Massachusetts law punishes offenders by imprisonment up to five years, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. In Rhode Island, a first offense is punishable by up to one year in prison, up to a $1,000 fine, or both. Subsequent offenders face up to five years in prison, up to a $10,000 fine, or both. Violating a restraining order to stalk is punishable by up to two years in prison, up to a $6,000 fine, or both.

Vermont imposes the toughest penalties in the region: up to two years in prison, up to a $5,000 fine, or both. Vermont law punishes aggravated stalking with up to five years in prison, up to a $25,000 fine, or both.

Two states, Maine and New Hampshire, do not impose a fine. Maine also has the weakest punishments: at least 60 days in prison for a first offense and up to six months imprisonment for subsequent violations; both penalties may also include attendance at an abuser education program. New Hampshire's punishment is up to one year in prison.

CONNECTICUT LAW

The law defines third-degree stalking as recklessly causing another person to reasonably fear for his or her physical safety by willfully and repeatedly following or lying in wait for that person (CGS 53a-181e(a)). The offense is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison, up to a $ 1,000 fine, or both (CGS 53a-181e(b)).

A person commits second-degree stalking when he or she intends to cause, and actually causes, another person to fear for his or her physical safety by willfully and repeatedly following or lying in wait for him or her (CGS 53a-181d(a)). The offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, up to a $ 2,000 fine, or both (CGS 53a-181d(b)). Second-degree stalking requires intent, while third-degree stalking does not.

A person commits first-degree stalking when he or she commits second-degree stalking (1) after a previous stalking conviction, (2) in violation of a court order in effect at the time of the offense, or (3) when the victim is under age 16 (CGS 53a-181c(a)). The offense is a class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison, up to a $ 5,000 fine, or both (CGS 53a-181c(b)).

MAINE LAW

Under Maine law, stalking occurs when an actor intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would in fact cause a reasonable person to: (1) suffer intimidation or serious inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm; (2) fear bodily injury to his or her self or family; or (3) fear his or her death or the death of a relative (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17A 210-A).

First offenders are guilty of a Class D crime, punishable by at least 60 days imprisonment, of which 48 hours may not be suspended. When the violator has two or more prior stalking convictions, it is a Class C crime, punishable by at least six months imprisonment, 14 days of which may not be suspended. In both cases, the court may also order the offender to attend an education program (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17A 210-A).

MASSACHUSETTS LAW

Stalking is defined as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or threatening a person with the intent to place that person in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury. It is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. The law covers acts or threats including those conducted by mail; telephone; or telecommunication devices, including electronic mail, Internet communications, and facsimile communications (Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 265, 43).

A second stalking conviction is punishable by two to 10 years in prison. Stalking in violation of a court order is punishable by one to five years in prison. These orders include a temporary or permanent restraining or no-contact order, order to vacate, judgment, or preliminary or permanent injunction (Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 265, 43).

NEW HAMPSHIRE LAW

New Hampshire defines stalking as purposely, knowingly, or recklessly stalking by (1) following another person on more than one occasion for no legitimate purpose, intending to place the person in fear for his or her personal safety; (2) appearing on more than one occasion for no legitimate purpose near the person's residence, place of employment, or other place where the other person is found, intending to place the person in fear for his or her personal safety; or (3) following the other person in violation of a protective order or condition of bail (N.H. Rev. Stat. 633:3-a).

Purposely or knowingly intimidating and making explicit or implicit threats against another person also constitutes stalking. To “intimidate” is to engage in a pattern of conduct, with a continuity of purpose, directed at a specific person causing substantial emotional distress. “Explicit or implicit threats” are threats to cause death or bodily injury to a person intended to cause the target person to reasonably fear for his or her safety (N.H. Rev. Stat. 633:3-a).

New Hampshire allows law enforcement officers to make a warantless arrest within six hours of an alleged stalking, regardless of whether the crime occurred in their presence (N.H. Rev. Stat. 633:3-a).

A first offense is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison. A subsequent offense within seven years of the prior offense is a class B felony (N.H. Rev. Stat. 633:3-a).

RHODE ISLAND

Under Rhode Island law, stalking is harassing or willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following another person with the intent to place the other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury. The offense is punishable by up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both (R.I. Gen. Laws 11-59-2). “Harassing” is a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, serves no legitimate purpose, and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, or be in fear of bodily injury (R.I. Gen. Laws 11-59-1).

A second or subsequent conviction is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of $10,000, or both (R.I. Gen. Laws 11-59-2).

If a stalking offender is under a restraining order or injunction enjoining him or her from harassing another person, the penalty is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison, a maximum fine of $6,000, or both (R.I. Gen. Laws 11-59-3).

VERMONT

Intentionally stalking another person is punishable by up to two years imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, or both (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13 1062). Stalking is defined as a course of conduct serving no legitimate purpose, and consists of following, lying in wait for or harassing another person in such a way that it causes the person (1) to fear for his or her physical safety or (2) substantial emotional distress. A “course of conduct” is a pattern of conduct composed of two or more acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13 1061).

A person is guilty of aggravated stalking when he or she intentionally stalks another person and (1) has a previous conviction for stalking or an act of violence against the victim; (2) stalking violates a court order; or (3) the victim is under the age 16 (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13 1063(A)). Aggravated stalking is punishable by up to five years imprisonment, up to a $25,000 fine, or both (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13 1063(B)). Aggravated stalking is considered a violent act for the purposes of determining bail (Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13 1063(C)).

Appendix A: Stalking Laws and Penalties in New England

State

Elements of Offense

Penalty

Connecticut CGS 53a-181c-e

1st Degree

Recklessly causing another person to reasonably fear for his or her physical safety by willfully and repeatedly following or lying in wait for that person

Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in prison, up to a $ 1,000 fine, or both

 

2nd Degree

Intending to cause, and actually causing, another person to fear for his or her physical safety by willfully and repeatedly following or lying in wait for him or her

Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison, up to a $ 2,000 fine, or both

 

3rd Degree

Second-degree stalking (1) after a previous stalking conviction, (2) in violation of a court order in effect at the time of the offense, or (3) when the victim is under age 16

Class D felony, punishable by one to five years in prison, up to a $ 5,000 fine, or both

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 17A 210-A

First Offense

Intentionally or knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would in fact cause a reasonable person to: (1) suffer intimidation or serious inconvenience, annoyance or alarm; (2) fear bodily injury to his or her self or family; or (3) fear his or her death or the death of a member of his or her family

Class D crime, punishable by at least 60 days imprisonment, of which 48 hours may not be suspended; court may also order the offender to attend an education program

 

Subsequent Offenses

 

Class C crime, punishable by at least six months imprisonment, 14 days of which may not be suspended; court may also order the offender to attend an education program

Appendix A: Continued

State

Elements of Offense

Penalty

Massachusetts Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 365, 43

First Offense

Willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or threatening a person with the intent to place that person in imminent fear of death or serious bodily injury

Imprisonment for up to five years, by a fine of up to $1,000, or both

 

Subsequent Offenses

 

Two to 10 years in prison

 

In Violation of a Court Order

 

One to five years in prison

New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. 633:3-a

First Offense

Purposely, knowingly, or recklessly stalking by (1) following another person on more than one occasion for no legitimate purpose, intending to place the person in fear for his or her personal safety; (2) appearing on more than one occasion for no legitimate purpose near the person's residence, place of employment, or other place where the other person is found, intending to place the person in fear for his or her personal safety; or (3) following the other person in violation of a protective order or condition of bail. Includes intimidating and making explicit or implicit threats against another person.

Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison

 

Subsequent Offenses

Must be within seven years of the prior offense

Class B felony

Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws 11-59-1-3

First Offense

Harassing or willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following another person with the intent to place the other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury

Up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both

 

Subsequent Offenses

 

Up to five years in prison, a fine of $10,000, or both

Appendix A: Continued

State

Elements of Offense

Penalty

 

In Violation of a Court Order

Stalking under a restraining order or injunction enjoining him or her from harassing another person

Felony punishable by up to two years in prison, a maximum fine of $6,000, or both

Vermont

Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 13 1061-3

Stalking

Defined as a course of conduct serving no legitimate purpose, and consists of following, lying in wait for or harassing another person in such a way that it causes the person (1) to fear for his or her physical safety or (2) substantial emotional distress

Up to two years imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, or both

 

Aggravated Stalking

Aggravated stalking occurs when he or she intentionally stalks another person and (1) has a previous conviction for stalking or an act of violence against the victim; (2) stalking violates a court order; or (3) the victim is under the age 16

Up to five years imprisonment, up to a $25,000 fine, or both. Aggravated stalking is considered a violent act for the purposes of determining bail

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