Forms of Stalking

 

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.

I.        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.

II.       Love Obsession Stalkers

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.

IV.      Additional Information

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:

          1.   Socially maladjusted and inept

          2.   Emotionally immature

          3.   Often subject to feeling of powerlessness

          4.   Unable to succeed in relationship by socially acceptable means

          5.   Jealousy bordering paranoia

          6.   Extremely insecure about themselves

          7.   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 guard.

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 hang on.

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 victims.

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 friends.

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 stalking victim.

Stranger Stalking

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.

Delusional Stalkers

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 erotomanic stalkers."

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."

Serial Stalkers

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 individuals.

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!

Erotomania

Source: “Violent Attachment, “by J. Reid Meloy, 1992, Jason Aronson Inc. Publishing.

Psychiatrists do not know how prevalent delusional erotomania is, but recently they’ve come to believe it is not as rare as originally thought.

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 relationship.

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 withdrawn.

Men with the disorder are more likely to become violent than women, particularly if they have a history of substance abuse or mental illness.

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.

Source: ISE

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 someone famous.

Interstate Stalking

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).

Interpretation

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.

Key Definitions

  • "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 stalking;
  • 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 U.S.C. 2266(2))

  • 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 U.S.C. 1365(g)(4))

  • (A) a cut, abrasion, bruise, or disfigurement;
  • (B) physical pain;
  • (C) illness;
  • (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.

Interpretation

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:

  • bodily injury;
  • 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:

  • 5 years or more;
  • 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

a.   Offenses

  1. 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).
  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 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

  1. for life or any term of years, if death of the victim results;
  2. for not more than 20 years if permanent disfigurement or 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 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.

Interstate Violation of Protection Order C Title 18, '2262

a.   Offenses

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 victim results;

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 offense;

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.


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