Unfortunately, some people misunderstand what stalking is. Following someone around constantly isn’t a valid way to show you’re interested in him or her, it’s stalking and it’s dangerous. Stalking is a form of harassment that strikes fear into the victim and can turn deadly. It’s also a crime in Alabama with significant consequences.
A Huntsville nurse, Tracy Lynn Morris, was murdered in 1999 after almost two years of stalking by her murderer. Her story was the inspiration for “Tracy’s Law” which increased the stalking penalties in Alabama. Instead of just stalking and aggravated stalking, there are now two degrees or levels of both crimes in order to cover all of the inappropriate harassing behaviors stalking encompasses.
The following table outlines the main aspects of Alabama’s stalking laws.
|Alabama Code Title 13A: Criminal Code, Chapter 6: Offenses Involving Danger to the Person, Article 5: Stalking and Aggravated Stalking
|What Is Prohibited?
|Alabama prohibits stalking anyone. The four criminal stalking laws are:
- Stalking in the First Degree – Intentionally and repeatedly following or harassing another person, and making an expressed or implied threat to put that person in reasonable fear of death or serious physical harm
- Stalking in the Second Degree - Intentionally and repeatedly following, harassing, or verbally or electronically communicating with another person or that person's family or friends with an improper purpose, causing mental or emotional harm to the victim or putting him or her in reasonable fear that his or her career is threatened, and the defendant was previously told to stop
- Aggravated Stalking in the First Degree – Stalking in the first degree which is also a violation of any court order or injunction, such as a protection order
- Aggravated Stalking in the Second Degree – Stalking in the second degree which also constitutes a court order or injunction violation
|Crimes in Alabama are divided by felony and misdemeanor categories and three classes in each category ranging from A to C, with A being the highest or crimes deserving the most punishment. Each class has a set sentencing range and the circumstances will dictate where along the range the court will decide to sentence a defendant.
The penalties for the stalking laws above are:
- Stalking in the First Degree is a Class C felony that can be punished by between 1 and 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine.
- Stalking in the Second Degree is a Class B misdemeanor that’s penalized by not more than six months in jail and a $3,000 fine.
- Aggravated Stalking in the First Degree is a Class B felony that is subject to 2-20 years in prison and at most a $30,000 fine.
- Aggravated Stalking in the Second Degree is a Class C felony punished the same as Stalking in the First Degree.
|A stalking victim can request a protection order if they were ever married, in a dating relationship, or have a child with the abuser. If the abuser is a complete stranger or non-dating individual, such as a former co-worker, the court can enter into a different order based on the person’s crimes or behavior.
|Constitutionally Protected Activities Exempt
|Yes, by legal definition in Alabama any constitutionally protected activities aren’t considered harassment for the stalking laws. For example, a telemarketer may annoy you, but as long as the company follows the telemarketing laws, it’s not stalking to try to sell you something (legally) over the phone. This is intended to protect important American values such as the First Amendment freedom of speech.
|Getting Legal Help for Victims
|If you’re a victim of stalking, you should contact your local police department to file a police report or the local District Attorney’s Office to see about pressing charges. You can also see an experienced Alabama family law attorney or the closest legal aid organization about requesting a protection order.
|Getting Legal Help for Accused Perpetrators
|If you’ve been accused of stalking someone and are facing criminal charges, you should immediately consult with an experienced Alabama criminal defense attorney.
Note: State laws change constantly, you should verify your state law research by conducting your own legal research or consulting with a knowledgeable Alabama attorney.
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