Almost all stalkers have some
type of mental or emotional problem. Stalkers will go across town, country, or even
to different continents in order to continue their stalking. Stable people simply do
not continue, often in the face of years of rejection, to pursue someone.
Stalkers, no matter what or how severe
their mental disorder, can usually be sorted into one of three major groupings: Simple
Obsession, Love Obsession, and Other.
Simple Obsession Stalkers
These stalkers have previously been involved in an intimate
relationship with their victims. Often the victim has attempted to call off the
relationship but the stalker simply refuses to accept it. These stalkers suffer from
personality disorders, including being emotionally immature, extremely jealous, insecure,
have low self-esteem and quite often feel powerless without the relationship.
While reconciliation is the goal, this stalker believes
they must have a specific person back or they will not survive.
The stalker of former spouses or intimate partners, are
often domineering and abusive to their partners during the relationship and use this
domination as a way to bolster their own low self esteem. The control the abusers exert
over their partners gives them a feeling of power they can't find elsewhere. They try to
control every aspect of their partner's lives. Their worst fear is losing people over whom
they have control.
When they realize this fear as the relationship finally
does end, the stalker suddenly believes that his/her life is destroyed. Their total
identity and feelings of self-worth are tied up in the power experienced through their
domineering and abusive relationship. Without this control, they feel that they will have
no self-worth and no identity. They will become nobodies and in desperation they begin
stalking, trying to regain their partner and the basis of their power.
It is this total dependence on their partner for identity
and feelings of self worth that makes these stalkers so very dangerous. They will often go
to any length and stop at nothing to get their partner back. If they can't have the people
over whom they can exert dominance and total control, their lives are truly not worth
living. Unfortunately, along with becoming suicidal, they also often want to kill the
intimate partner who have left them.
Stalking does not always begin with violence or trying to
terrorize, it usually starts with, "Can I just talk to you or meet with you one last
time?" " If you just talk to me I'll leave you alone." According to
experts, "He wants her back, and she won't come back." Everything escalates from
there and sometimes he snaps and assaults or kills her. In his mind, he makes the
decision, "If I can't have you, no one else will." When he says
this, he is attempting to cover his fear that she'll meet another man and leave him.
Far too often, the police find that these stalkers follow through on their threats,
killing the victims and then many times committing suicide. For them, death is
better than having to face humiliation of the stalking victim leaving them for someone
else, and the humiliation of having to face their own powerlessness.
These are individuals who become obsessed with or fixed on
a person with whom they have had no intimate or close relationship. The victim may be a
friend, a business acquaintance, a person met only once, or even a complete stranger.
Love obsession stalkers believe that a special, often
mystical, relationship exists between them and their victims. Any contact with the
victim becomes a positive reinforcement of this relationship and any wavering (even the
slightest) of the victim from an absolute "NO" is seen as an invitation to
continue the pursuit.
These stalkers will often read sexual meanings into neutral
responses from the victim. They are often loners with an emotional void in their
lives. Any contact with the object of the infatuation, even negative, helps fill
this void. Failed relationships are the rule among these individuals.
Many suffer from erotomania. They have the delusion
that they are loved intensely by another person, usually a person of higher socioeconomic
status than them or an unattainable public figure. They are totally convinced that
the stalking victim loves them dearly and truly, and would return their affection except
for some external influence.
During questioning, police find that most love obsession
stalkers have fantasized a complete relationship with the person they are stalking.
When they attempt to act out this fantasy in real life, they expect the victim to return
the affection. When no affection is returned, the stalker often reacts with threats
and intimidation. When the threats and intimidation don't accomplish what they
hoped, the stalker can often become violent and even deadly.
III. Other Stalkers
Some stalkers harass their victim not out of love but out
of hate. Occasionally, stalking becomes a method of revenge for some misdeed against the
stalker, real or imagined. Stalking can also be used as a means of protest.
This is the smallest group, but this type of stalking, for revenge and protest, can be
especially dangerous. There have been several killings by stalkers at abortion
clinics, and mass murders around the country by employees who have been fired and then
returned to stalk and eventually kill those who have fired them.
Intimate Partner Stalkers
Once the relationship ends, this group of stalkers, fearing
they will lose their identity and self-worth, often become desperate to re-establish the
dominance and control they wielded during the relationship. If they find this isn't
possible they can become suicidal, homicidal or both. According to the Bureau of
Justice Statistics report Female Victims of Violent Crime, in 29 % of all violence against
women by a lone offender the perpetrator was an intimate. Women are about seven
times more likely than men to experience violence committed by an intimate, and female
victims of violence by an intimate are more often injured seriously enough to require
medical attention than are females victimized by a stranger. Intimate partner
stalking can end in much worse than just injury. It can end in death if the stalkers
cannot regain the control they so intensely and desperately need.
Many intimate partner stalkers who have spent years
dominating and controlling their partner simply cannot face the prospect that the people
they've controlled for so long have successfully gotten away -- have proven themselves
stronger than the stalkers. One former stalker wrote in his diary, "I couldn't live
with myself thinking or knowing she had won, or she got me. No! This is war."
Tragically his victim was murdered.
According to Linden Gross in her book To Have or to Harm,
"We all have problems with rejection, especially if we're emotionally invested in a
relationship. For the majority of us, however, rejection doesn't imply
devastation. Even though the pain, however excruciating, our identities stay intact,
our sense of self-worth bruised, perhaps, but still operational. This isn't so,
however, for intimate partner stalkers. Because of their need for total control over
someone, when the relationship breaks up their world is devastated. Their
personality disorders won't allow them to accept rejection."
While this kind of stalker may or may not have
psychological disorders, all clearly have personality disorders. A few of these
personality disorders, according to the National Victim Center include:
Socially maladjusted and inept
Often subject to feeling of powerlessness
Unable to succeed in relationship by socially acceptable means
Jealousy bordering paranoia
Extremely insecure about themselves
Often suffering from low self esteem
According to experts, intimate partner stalkers can be the
most dangerous types of stalker because they often have a history of violence against
their victim, and consequently feel totally uninhibited about using more or heightened
violence in an effort to get them back. The stalkers know that violence has worked
for them in the past, and so they have no reason to believe that it won't work
again. Also, intimate partner stalkers know their victim well: their family, their
place of employment, their recreational activities, and so forth. They know where to
find their victim.
Intimate partner stalkers, because of the dominance and
control once held over their victim, often have the mind set that the victim is their
property, to do with as they wish, and to reclaim in any way they see fit. And,
believing that their lives won't be worth living if they can't recapture the victim as
their property, they often feel they have nothing to lose by using extreme measures.
Consequently, these stalkers feel totally justified in doing just about anything in an
effort to regain control over the victim. Since the stalker believes the victim
belongs to them, they show no regard for restraining orders, and may instead be infuriated
by them, feeling they are being denied their God-given rights.
One victim best sums it up. "When you know a
person is capable of anything, and he also feels he has nothing to lose, you'd better be
scared of him. He'll kill you."
Researches have now found that intimate partner stalking
often follows a three-phase cycle.
Phase One - The Tension Building Phase
This can include such things as making hundreds of
telephone calls and sending dozens of letters, showing up wherever the victim is, casual
surveillance of the victim, and following the victim wherever they go. However, when
these actions don't accomplish what the stalker wants, the tension builds, and eventually
the stalker may begin making threats, vandalizing property, and instituting more forceful
attempts to make the victim give in to their demands.
Phase Two - The Violence Phase
Once the stalker realizes that their efforts in the first
phase have failed, they often resort to violence against not only the victim but also the
victim's friends, family and often times co-workers. This can include angry
face-to-face confrontations, physical assaults (including rape), kidnapping, and in
extreme cases murder.
Phase Three - The Hearts and Flowers Phase
The stalker reverts back to the less violent tactics, and
will often either beg forgiveness for the violence or appear to abandon the stalking
altogether. Unfortunately, any cessation is usually only temporary. This pause in
the stalking can actually be an extremely dangerous period because many times the victim
falsely believes that the nightmare is over, and consequently lets down his/her
guard. They then can be caught unprepared and unprotected when the stalking suddenly
begins again, often violently.
An important point for a victim or potential victim of
intimate partner stalking to remember about this cycle of stalking is that it is not
uniform or predictable. Stalkers can move through the phases fairly rapidly, at times
changing from being loving to brutal in only seconds. For other stalkers, it may take
years to move from one phase to another, and some may never move out of the first
phase. Most important, because a stalker may cycle from being a minor nuisance to a
physical threat extremely rapidly, intimate partner stalking victims must always be on
Intimate partner stalkers are typically known as the guy
who "just can't let go." These are most often men who refuse to believe
that a relationship has really ended. Often, other people - even the victims - feel
sorry for them. But they shouldn't. Studies show that the vast majority of
these stalkers are not sympathetic, lonely people who are still hopelessly in love but
were in fact emotionally abusive and controlling during the relationship. Many have
criminal histories unrelated to stalking. Well over half of stalkers fall into this
"former intimate partner" category.
In these types of cases, the victim may, unwittingly
encourage the stalker by trying to "let him down easy," or agreeing to talk to
him or meet with him just one more time. Victims need to understand that there is no reasoning with a stalker. Just the fact that stalking - an unreasonable
activity - has already begun illustrates this fact. When the victim says, "I
don't want a relationship now", the stalker hears, "She'll want me again
tomorrow." When she says, "I just need some space," he hears,
"If I just let her go out with her friends, she'll come back." "It's
just not working out," is heard as "We can make it work out." In blatant words, the only thing to say to
the stalker is "NO". Do not give explanations, do not give time limits and do
not give the stalker any room to maneuver.
As a victim you should say
"NO" once and only once. And then, never say anything to him/her again. If a stalker can't have his victim's love, he'll
take his/her hatred or her fear. The worst thing in the world for the stalker is to
be ignored. Example: "Think of a small child. If they are not getting
the attention they want, they will act out and misbehave because even negative attention
is better than none at all." Former intimate partner stalkers have their entire
sense of self-worth caught up in the fact that, "she loves me." Therefore,
any evidence to the contrary is seen as merely an inconvenience to overcome. Since giving
up the victim means giving up the stalkers self-worth, they are very unlikely to do so.
Say "NO" only once - Don't help the stalker
Casual Acquaintance Stalker
Stalking does not have to involve an intimate relationship.
The relationship can be as minor as a casual interaction, such as a momentary
conversation, a quick lunch together in a crowded restaurant, or a smile across a room.
These can all be interpreted as a romantic encounter by a potential stalker.
A large number of people every year become stalking victims because they felt sorry for
someone and showed him or her compassion. Befriending or even just being polite to a
potential stalker can be exceedingly dangerous. Stalkers often see any acts of
kindness as a sign of the true love that they are convinced exists between them and their
Very little interaction is needed with a potential casual
acquaintance stalker in order to trigger a long-term stalking episode. Attempting to
appease or ignore a stalker simply will not work. Restraining and protective orders,
though important and occasionally helpful, often don't work. The stalker's belief
that they and their victim(s) are meant for each other or, that "It is in the stars
for them to be together" often overrides any fear these stalkers might have of the
consequences of violating restraining or protective orders.
How dangerous can a stalker be who only knows the victim
casually? Very dangerous. According to the Bureau of Justice, statistics
report that 36% of all aggravated assaults against women in the country are committed by
acquaintances or friends, as are 53% of the rapes and sexual assaults and 22% of
homicides. Many of these women had been stalked beforehand by these acquaintances or
A very real danger with being stalked is that the victim
must still work. Finding a new place to live for a while may be difficult, but
finding a new job or occupation, particularly when the victim has extensive education and
training or has worked at their present job for a long time and accrued considerable
seniority, just isn't easy, especially when the victim isn't sure just how dangerous the
stalker is or can be. Very few people will make such a radical life change as
getting a new occupation because of threats by a casual acquaintance. Subsequently,
a stalker knows they can go to the victim's place of employment and likely find them
there. According to a former stalking victim, "A stalker knows if they can't
catch you at home, they can catch you at work."
While it is tragic and disturbing that some people can
begin their obsessive stalking on as small an initiative as the victim appearing to be
kind and polite to them, this does not mean that people should stop being kind and polite
to others. It does mean, however, that you should be on the lookout for the signs
of a potential stalker and take action immediately if you believe you may become a
While being stalked by someone with whom the victim has had
an intimate relationship, or by someone known to the victim who has perhaps attempted
unsuccessfully to establish an intimate relationship, is frightening enough, at least the
victim knows who the stalker is, what he or she is capable of, and what to likely expect.
Because the stalker is unknown to them, the stalking takes on a much more
frightening feeling. Because the stalker is unknown to the victim, the victim has no
idea who to be on the lookout for, who to be careful of or around, and who to speak to and
who to avoid.
Although the danger level connected with stranger stalking
may not in actuality be higher, the stress level most certainly is. Most experts will tell
you that stranger stalking can be one of the most terrifying of all stalking situations as
experts don't know how to deal with it.
Often a stranger stalker suffers from erotomania; a mental
disorder that causes the stalker to believe another person is in love with him or
her. Due to this disorder, a stranger stalker may fantasize either that they have
had an intimate relationship with their victim or that their victim truly loves them and
wants to have an intimate relationship with them.
According to Dr. Park Diets, "Erotomania is directed
at both men and women, but more men act on the delusion."
Victim find themselves constantly asking, could the stalker
be the stranger across the street, the person standing behind them in the store, or the
driver of the car that seems to be following them? The victim has no idea who the stalker
is, and also no idea what might happen. This unpredictability and uncertainty can be
psychologically and emotionally crippling. The victim doesn't know the stalker's tendency
for violence, what the stalker wants or more important, what the stalker plans to do.
Victims of stranger stalking often ask themselves, why me?
They search through their memories for any event that might have provoked this
reaction from a stranger. Many times the victims of stranger stalking are simply
selected at random.
Occasionally victims of stranger stalking may eventually
find out who their stalkers are. Often, the stalker is completely unknown to them,
sometimes they are just nodding acquaintances, and sometimes they are individuals who have
had chance encounters with the victim.
With stalking incidents involving former intimate partners
or even former acquaintances the victim knows the identity of the person they are dealing
with. This is not the case with a stranger stalker.
What can you do against a stranger stalking you? You
can't ask the stalker's family to intercede, you can't have a friend or intimate partner
threaten the stalker, and you'll have a hard time getting help from the criminal justice
system. You will often hear victims say that "officers always have a logical
explanation and they think I'm the one who is delusional and crazy. Let them live in
my shoes for a week and then let them draw their own conclusion. How can I get a
restraining order on someone when I don't even know who it is?"
Stranger stalking usually doesn't end with the violence of
many intimate partner stalkings. However, they are no less terrifying and
disrupting. Being stalked by a stranger can affect the way a person looks at others
and at life in general. Victims of stranger stalking often feel they can no longer
smile at or be friendly with strangers or casual acquaintances and come to question the
meaning of smiles given by others. They stop being outgoing instead they become
standoffish and self-protective. They discover that their whole lives are changed.
They may have major mental illnesses like schizophrenia,
manic-depression or erotomania. What they all have in common is some false belief
that keeps them tied to their victims. Frequently they have had little, if any
contact with their victims.
In erotomania, the stalker's delusional belief is that the
victim loves him/her. This type of stalker actually believes that he is having a
relationship with his victim, even though they might never have met.
"The woman stalking David Letterman, the stalker who
killed actress Rebecca Schaeffer and the man who stalked Madonna are all examples of
Another type of delusional stalker might believe that he is
destined to be with someone, and that if he only pursues her hard enough and long enough,
she will come to love him as he loves her. These stalkers know they are not having a
relationship with their victim, but firmly believe that they will some day. John
Hinckley Jr.'s obsession with Jodi Foster is an example of this type of stalker.
The typical profile of a delusional stalker is that of an
unmarried and socially immature loner, who is unable to establish or sustain a close
relationship with others. They rarely date and have had few, if any, sexual
relationships. Since at the same time they are both threatened by and yearn for
closeness, they often pick a victim who is unattainable in some way; perhaps she is
married, or has been the stalker's therapist, clergyman, doctor or teacher.
Those in the helping professions are particularly
vulnerable to delusional stalkers, because for someone who already has difficulty
separating reality from fantasy, the kindness shown by the soon-to-be victim, the only
person who has ever treated the stalker with warmth, is blown out of proportion into a
delusion of intimacy.
What these stalkers cannot attain in reality is achieved
through fantasy and it is for that reason that the delusion seems to be so difficult to
relinquish. Even an imaginary love is better than no love at all.
Delusional stalkers have almost always come from a
background which was either emotionally barren or severely abusive. They grow up
having a very poor sense of their own identities. This, coupled with a
predisposition toward psychosis, leads them to strive for satisfaction through another,
yearning to merge with someone who is almost always perceived to be of a high status or
very socially desirable. It is as if this stalker says, "Gee. If she
loves me, I must not be so bad."
Although many victims of stalking may feel that their
stalkers have chosen them because they represent something unique and desirable, and that
the stalker is fixated on and possessed with only them, this often isn't the case.
Detectives often find that if a complete background investigation is made into the
stalkers past there are often other cases of prior stalkings.
What percentage of stalkers are serial stalkers?
Experts say that more than half of the stalkers in America have been involved in prior
incidents of stalking. Psychiatrists cannot accurately predict when the behavior
will stop or re-occur but they know that about two-thirds of those showing obsessive
behavior have had prior episodes.
Far too often, a look in into the past actions
of a stalker can be a frightening glimpse into how the present stalking will end.
Frustrated serial stalkers don't have to have had an
intimate relationship before they begin stalking their victim, and they may even stalk
more than one victim of the same household at the same time.
Although stalking victims may desperately want to know why
they were chosen as the victim, what they might have done to trigger a stalker's obsession
with them, often, they find the answer is nothing. They are just one of a serial
stalker's many victims. These stalkers are simply following a pattern of behavior
they have practiced for years. No matter what the reason or cause for the stalking,
victims should be cautioned that serial stalkers in particular are very disturbed
False Stalking / False Victims
False victims, as they are sometimes known, use a variety
of situations to attract attention to themselves. In some cases they may harass
their own family and friends in order to fabricate false evidence or witness
reports. This type of stalker firmly believes that he or she is the real victim.
In a sense there is a victim - the perpetrator. Why
victimize yourself? Perhaps the person noticed how kind and considerate others were
to them, when they presented themselves as a victim some time in the past. In short
- the perpetrator/victim takes immense pleasure from being cared for and being the center
of attention. One very common trait of this type of stalker is to file false police
report(s) against the "real stalking victim."
These stalkers are frequently delusional and
irrational. When presented with the facts, this type of stalker will rationalize and
manipulate everything he can and ignore even a direct question, in order to preserve his
fantasy of being the victim. He will initiate conflicts and then twist them in his
favor in an attempt to gain positive attention for himself. He feels very inferior
to the victim whom he admires greatly, although he will rarely admit this to be
true. In reality, this kind of stalker suffers from a severe lack of self-esteem.
This form of stalker, believing himself to be inferior,
wronged or rejected by the ones they admire the most, begin harassing, following the
victim, spreading tales, keeping tabs, and in many instances plot revenge. The
primary motive is to bring the victim down by any means he can.
Another trait that is showing up more and more in this type
of stalking is Munchhausen (munch-how-zen) syndrome or in layman terms "The Munch
Bunch." This is the name given to patients who fake illness or obtain hospital
treatment in order to get sympathy from family, friends, and most often the actual
victim's attention. These individuals are a considerable waste of medical resources.
Hospitals will often hold a file on these people in an attempt to recognize them
before they are unwittingly admitted for unnecessary treatment. The major problem is
that they skip from hospital to hospital and doctor to doctor.
Time after time you'll hear a victim say, "The
hospital called, he attempted suicide or he's having a heart attack because I wouldn't
meet with him." Far too often these individuals know how to "fake"
illnesses or even go to the point of attempted suicide but knowing just how far to go
before it becomes life threatening. All to get attention!
Violent Attachment, by J. Reid Meloy, 1992, Jason Aronson Inc. Publishing.
Psychiatrists do not know how prevalent
delusional erotomania is, but recently theyve come to believe it is not as rare as
Also called Clerambault Syndrome, after
the French psychiatrist who first identified it in 1921, the disorder is diagnosed far
more often in women. The patient becomes
fixated on a person and despite rebuffs, becomes convinced there is a romantic
It is most common in unmarried women
who have few social skills, consider themselves unattractive and are employed in
low-paying jobs. They often are lonely and
Men with the disorder are more likely
to become violent than women, particularly if they have a history of substance abuse or
The person who is the object of the
obsession often is more socially prominent and sometimes is a higher-paid colleague. In some cases the person is a celebrity.
What makes this type of stalker
dangerous is their tendency to objectify their victims.
This means they will view a victim not as a human being, but as an object
that they alone must possess and control.
The perpetrator may become aware of
their victim through various forms of the media (cinema, television, radio, newspapers,
etc.) and establishes a delusional fantasy in which they have a special or unique
relationship with the victim. These fantasies
can be of an extreme sexual nature sometimes reflected in the way the stalker
attempts to communicate with the victim. The
stalker believes the victim is communicating with him or her using a secret code that only
they know the meaning of. Due to the nature
of this type of stalker most victims will be the rich and famous. In some cases the victim may simply look like
Compiled by the National Center for Victims of Crime
18 U.S.C. § 2261A was originally enacted on September 23,
1996. In November 2000, the federal statute was amended as part of the Violence
Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2000.
To report a violation of this federal law, contact the FBI
or U.S. Attorney's Office in your district.
18 U.S.C. § 2261A1
Whoever (1) travels in interstate or foreign commerce or
within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or enters
or leaves Indian country, with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another
person, and in the course of, or as a result of, such travel places that person in
reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, that person, a member of the
immediate family (as defined in section 115) of that person, or the spouse or intimate
partner of that person; or (2) with the intent (A) to kill or injure a person in another
State or tribal jurisdiction or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction
of the United States; or (B) to place a person in another State or tribal jurisdiction or
within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, in
reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to (i) that person; (ii) a
member of the immediate family (as defined in section 115) of that person; or (iii) a
spouse or intimate partner of that person, uses the mail or any facility of interstate or
foreign commerce to engage in a course of conduct that places that person in reasonable
fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, any of the persons described in clauses
(i) through (iii), shall be punished as provided in §2261(b).
§2261A(1) makes it a federal crime to travel across state,
tribal or international lines to stalk someone. The stalker must have the intent to
kill, injure, harass, or intimidate the victim, who must be placed in reasonable fear of
death or serious bodily injury. The victim's family members spouse or intimate
partners are also protected.
§2261A(2) makes it a federal crime to stalk someone across
state, tribal or international lines, using regular mail, e-mail, or the Internet (i.e.,
cyberstalking). The stalker must have the intent to kill or injure the victim, or to
place the victim, a family member, or a spouse or intimate partner of the victim in fear
of death or serious bodily injury.
§2261A(1) and (2) make it a federal crime to stalk someone
within the special or maritime jurisdiction of the U.S. This includes federal lands
such as national parks and military bases.
If you have any questions about the interpretation of these
provisions, contact the U.S. Attorney's Office in your district.
- "Spouse or Intimate Partner" - (See
18 U.S.C. §2266(7)(A)(ii))
- A spouse or former spouse of the target of the stalking;
- A person who shares a child in common with the target of the
- A person who cohabits or has cohabited as a spouse with the
target of the stalking; or
- Any other person similarly situated to a spouse who is
protected by the domestic and family violence laws of the state or tribal jurisdiction
where the injury occurred or the victim resides.
"Course of Conduct" - (See 18
- A pattern of conduct composed of two or more acts,
evidencing a continuity of purpose.
"Serious Bodily Injury" - (See
18 U.S.C. §2119(2) and 18 U.S.C. §1365(g)(3) and (4)
- Bodily injury (see below) which involves (A) a substantial
risk of death; (B) extreme physical pain; (C) protracted and obvious disfigurement; or (D)
protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental
faculty. This includes any conduct that, if the conduct occurred in the special
maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States would violate section 2241
(aggravated sexual abuse) or 2242 (sexual abuse) of this title.
"Bodily Injury" - (See
- (A) a cut, abrasion, bruise, or disfigurement;
- (D) impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or
mental faculty; or
- (E) any other injury to the body, no matter how temporary.
"Immediate Family" - (See
18 U.S.C. §115(c)(2))
- Immediate family includes the individual's spouse, parents,
siblings, children, or any other person living in the individual's household related by
blood or marriage.
Note: This section
was not developed by E.S.I.A. The author or sponsoring organization granted E.S.I.A.
permission for placement on this site. Points of view in the above document are
those of the author(s).
Penalties for Interstate Stalking, Interstate Domestic
Violence, Interstate Violation of A Protection Order
Compiled by the National Center for Victims of Crime
18 U.S.C. §2261(b)
Offenders will be fined, imprisoned
(1) for life or any term of years, if death of
the victim results;
(2) for not more than 20 years if permanent disfigurement
of life threatening bodily injury to the victim results;
(3) for not more than 10 years, if serious bodily injury to
the victim results or if the offender uses a dangerous weapon during the offense;
(4) as provided for the applicable conduct under chapter
109A (18U.S.C. § 2241 et seq.) if the offense would constitute an offense under chapter
109A (without regard to whether the offense was committed in the special maritime and
territorial jurisdiction of the United States or in a Federal prison); and
(5) for not more than 5 years, in any other case, or both
fined and imprisoned.
Penalties for violating 18 U.S.C. § 2261, §2261,
2261A or 2262 are either a fine, imprisonment, or both. There are no minimum
sentences, but there are maximums based on the extent of the victim's injuries. The
maximum sentences are listed below along with the corresponding injury.
- Life imprisonment if victim dies;
- 20 years if victim is permanently disfigured;
- 20 years if victims suffers life threatening bodily injury;
- 10 years if victim suffers serious bodily injury;
- Penalties set forth in Chapter 109A (18 U.S.C. § 2241 et
seq. - sex offenses) if offender's conduct meets the elements of any of those offenses
(conduct does not have to occur in federal prison or within special/maritime jurisdiction
of U.S.); or 5 years for any other situation.
In addition, the maximum sentence is 10 years if the
offender uses a dangerous weapon.
Sentencing Enhancements, Upward Departure, and
Additional Firearm Charges
Sentencing Enhancements - (See 18 U.S.S.G.
§2A6.2. Stalking or Domestic Violence.)
Under (a), base level is 14. Under (b)(1), offense
increases 2 to 4 levels if it involves one or more of the following aggravating factors:
- violation of a court protection order;
- possession or threatened use of a dangerous weapon; or
- pattern of stalking the same victim.
Upward Departure to Address Severity of the Crime
- (See Application Note 5 of the Commentary to 18 U.S.S.G. §2A6.2)
An upward departure motion may be granted if sentencing
enhancement under (b)(1) does not adequately reflect the extent or severity of the
defendant's conduct. "For example, an upward departure may be warranted if the
defendant stalked the victim on many occasions over a prolonged period of time."
Additional Charges for Use of Firearms - (See 18
U.S.C. §924(c) (1)
If the defendant uses or possess a firearm in furtherance
of a crime of violence for which he/she is convicted, charges under §924 may be filed and
the following penalties may be available:
- 7 year or more if firearm is brandished; or
- 10 years or more if firearm is discharged.
Specific Firearms - If certain types of firearms are
possessed or used, the following penalties may be imposed:
- 10 years or more (25 multiple convictions) for
short-barreled rifles or other listed firearms; or
- 30 years or more (life for multiple convictions) for machine
guns or destructive devices, or weapons equipped with silencers or firearms mufflers.
Note: This section
was not developed by E.S.I.A. The author or sponsoring organization granted E.S.I.A.
permission for placement on this site. Points of view in the above document are
those of the author(s).
Interstate Stalking Title 18, '2261A
Whoever travels across a State line or within the special
maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States with the intent to injure or
harass another person, and in the course of, or as a result of, such travel places that
person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury (as defined in section
1365 (g) (3) of this title) to, that person or a member of that person's immediate family
(as defined in section 115 of this title) shall be punished in section 2261 of this title.
Interstate Domestic Violence Title 18, '2261
- Crossing a state line. A person who travels across a State
line or enters or leaves Indian country with the intent to injure, harass, or intimidate
that person's spouse or intimate partner, and who, in the course of or as a result of such
travel, intentionally commits a crime of violence and thereby causes bodily injury to such
spouse or intimate partner, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
- Causing the crossing of a state line. A person who causes a
spouse or intimate partner to cross a State line or to enter or leave Indian country by
force, coercion, duress, or fraud and, in the course or as a result of that conduct,
intentionally commits a crime of violence and thereby causes bodily injury to the person's
spouse or intimate partner, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
b. Penalties. A person who violates this section or
section 2261A shall be fined under this title, imprisoned
- for life or any term of years, if death of the victim
- for not more than 20 years if permanent disfigurement or
life threatening bodily injury to the victim results;
- for not more than 10 years, if serious bodily injury to the
victim results or if the offender uses a dangerous weapon during the offense;
- as provided for the applicable conduct under chapter 109A if
the offense would constitute an offense under chapter 109A (without regard to whether the
offense was committed in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United
States or in a Federal prison); and
- for not more than 5 years, in any other case, or both fined
Interstate Violation of Protection Order C Title
1. Crossing a State line. A person who travel across
a State line or enters or leaves Indian country with the intent to engage in conduct that
(A) (i) violates the portion of a protection order that
involves protection against credible threats of violence, repeated harassment, or bodily
injury to the person or persons for whom the protection order was issued; or
(ii) violates this subparagraph if the conduct occurred in
the jurisdiction in which the order was issued; and
(B) subsequently engages in such conduct, shall
be punished as provided in subsection (b).
2. Causing the crossing of a state line. A person who
causes a spouse or intimate partner to cross a State line or to enter or leave Indian
country by force, coercion, duress, or fraud, and, in the course or as a result of that
conduct, intentionally commits an act that injures the person's spouse or intimate partner
in violation of a valid protection order issued by a State shall be punished as provided
in subsection (b).
b. Penalties. A person who violates this
section shall be fined under this title, imprisoned -
1. for life or any term of years, if death of the
2. for not more than 20 years if permanent
disfigurement or life threatening bodily injury to the victim results;
3. or not more than 10 years, if serious bodily
injury to the victim results or if the offender uses a dangerous weapon during the
4. as provided for the applicable conduct under
chapter 109A if the offense would constitute an offense under chapter 109A (without regard
to whether the offense was committed in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction
of the United States or in a Federal prison); and
5. for not more than 5 years, in any other case, or
both fined and imprisoned.
End Stalking In America, Inc.
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purposes only and does not constitute legal or mental advice. Professionals should be
contacted for all legal advice, mental and threat assessments.
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