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When Is It Stalking And When Is It Not?

Aggressive Trial Attorney With a Reputation for Success

Stalking is a crime.  It is also the basis upon which an Injunction (Restraining Order) may be filed.  In some instances, a person can be both charged criminally with stalking and be the respondent in an Injunction proceeding based upon the same set of facts.  

But not every unpleasant encounter or rude exchange with another constitutes stalking.  It is important to know when you are being stalked and when you are simply dealing with a difficult individual.

Stalking must be continuous and must evidence some sort of course of conduct.  A rude text message or unpleasant conversation is not the basis upon which an arrest may be sought or an Injunction may be obtained.

If you are actively engaging back and forth with another (via text, email, phone call, social media messages, or in person), then you are likely not being stalked since you are an active participant in the dialogue.  Stalking is predominantly one-sided.  That means that the stalker is committing the act upon you.  It's not a two-way street.

So if somebody is texting you incessantly and you are not responding, that may be the basis upon which an Injunction may be sought or police action may be taken.  Volume of messages can - and often is - a determining factor in whether communication rises to the level of stalking.

However, if the purpose for which you are being contacted is legitimate, then it is not stalking.  Legitimate communications may include matters regarding business or debts that are owed.  This is why debt collectors cannot be charged with stalking or be served with stalking Injunction.  Annoying as they may be, their communications are legitimate.  They are seeking to be repaid a debt that is owed.

That's not to say that you don't have recourse under the law for overzealous communications by a former business partner or a debt collector.  But your relief will not be sought via the issuance of a stalking Injunction.  

If somebody leaves a bad or false review for your business, or contacts your clients/customers to tell them what a bad person you are, that - by itself - is not stalking.  That may be defamation - which is actionable in civil court by filing a lawsuit for monetary damages - but it is not the basis upon which a stalking Injunction can be issued or an arrest can be made.

If you believe that you are being stalked, what should you do?

First and foremost, DO NOT engage with your stalker.  If you are responding to your stalker's text messages, the Court may view this as a reciprocal conversation.  If you are being contacted incessantly for no legitimate purpose, do not respond.  Make sure you save the messages as you will need to provide this evidence to the Court later on.

Stalking requires continuity.  So if you only receive a few messages and then they stop, that may not be stalking.  If the messages persist for a period of days, weeks, or months - then it may be the right time to seek a stalking Injunction or even contact the police.

Police rarely get involved in stalking cases where there is no threat of harm or the stalker isn't actively showing up at the victim's home or place of work.  Heavy volume of communication by itself will usually prompt the police simply to take a report and recommend that you - the victim - seek an Injunction.

In conclusion, stalking is not black and white.  There are many shades of gray.  And while there is recourse under the law for unpleasant and persistent communication, the relief is not always appropriate by way of a stalking Injunction.

Courts in Florida issue stalking Injunctions only when the facts indicate such an Injunction is necessary to protect the victim.  Many people think that a stalking Injunction is a "catch-all" when dealing with someone unpleasant, or simply want to keep a person out of their lives.

If you believe that you are being stalked in Miami-Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach County, feel free to contact me to discuss your options.

Eric Matheny is an attorney assisting both Petitioners and Respondents in stalking Injunction matters throughout South Florida.