What Constitutes Stalking in North Carolina?
In today’s culture of instant messaging and social media, stalking can take on a new dimension. Under North Carolina law, stalking is a crime punished as a Class A1 misdemeanor. A defendant with prior stalking convictions is guilty of a Class F felony. Stalking often falls within the domain of domestic violence. Sexual assault, stalking, and other domestic violence crimes are often tied together. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our lawyers have experience defending clients against stalking charges. Contact our Charlotte criminal defense law firm today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn how our legal team can fight for you.North Carolina’s Anti-Stalking Law
North Carolina recognizes the strong link between domestic violence and stalking. Thus, North Carolina law seeks to prevent stalking by criminalizing the act before it escalates into domestic violence. A defendant is guilty of stalking in North Carolina when he or she:
- Willfully on more than once occasion follows or harasses another person without a legal purpose and
- Does so with the intent to place the person in reasonable fear for the persons safety or
- Causes the person substantial emotional distress by placing the person in fear of death, bodily injury or
- Willfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person knowing that the course of conduct or harassment would cause a reasonable person fear or emotional distress and in fact causes the person substantial emotional distress.
The defendant must commit one of these actions at least twice to receive a stalking conviction. Additionally, stalking can be done through any action, method, device, or means. The law defines “course of conduct” as directly, indirectly, or through third parties doing any of the following:
- In the physical presence of the person
- Communicates to or about a person
- Interferes with a person’s property
Harassment is “knowing conduct, including written or printed communication or transmission, telephone or cellular or other wireless telephonic communication, facsimile transmission, answering machine or voice mail messages, emails, or other computerized or electronic transmissions, directed at a specific person that terrorizes, torments, or terrifies the person and serves no legitimate purpose.” Harassment can take place through any of the following means of communication:
- Wireless telephonic communication
- Facsimile transmission
- Pager messages or transmissions
- Answering machines
- Voice mail messages or transmissions
- Electronic mail (email) messages
- Any other computerized or electronic transmission
North Carolina’s anti-stalking law specifically addresses stalking by making harassing telephone calls. Defendants convicted of stalking by making harassing telephone calls are guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Telephonic communications are not limited strictly to phone calls. It includes any communications received or made by a fax machine, answering machine, or a modem. The crime of making harassing phone calls includes all of the following scenarios:
- To use words or language that is profane, vulgar, lewd, lascivious, or of an indecent character, nature, or connotation in a telephone communication
- To use words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to a person’s child, spouse, sibling, or dependent while using telephonic communications
- To use words or language for the purpose of extorting valuable property or money from any person while on using telephonic communications
- To telephone a person repeatedly, even when no conversation takes place, in order to annoy, threaten, harass, or terrify that person
- To make a telephone call and not hang up or stop the conversation with the intent of disrupting the telephone service of the other person
- To make a telephone call and knowingly make false statements concerning the death, illness, injury, disfigurement, or indecent conduct of the person telephoned, his or her family, or household members with the intent to embarrass, harass, terrify, threaten, annoy, or abuse them.
A North Carolina resident does not need to do the actual harassment in order to face criminal charges. North Carolina’s law makes it clear that any person who knows that another person is using his or her telephone to harass someone and allows them to use his or her telephone can face charges.Penalties for Stalking in North Carolina
The penalties for stalking in North Carolina depend on whether the defendant is a first-time offender or has one or more previous stalking convictions. Violation of North Carolina’s stalking statute for a first-time offender is a Class A1 misdemeanor. If the defendant has already received a conviction for stalking, North Carolina courts convict him of a Class F felony. If the person convicted of stalking commits the stalking offense when a court order prohibiting stalking is in place, such as a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO), the defendant is guilty of a Class H felony. Defendants convicted of a Class H felony face 4 to 25 months in prison.
If you are facing stalking or other domestic violence charges in North Carolina, Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help. Contact our Charlotte criminal defense law firm today to schedule your free initial consultation.