Being charged with criminal stalking in Indiana may be an incredibly difficult and personal ordeal. It may involve very personal situations that are designed to protect victims from potential (not actual) harm. If you find yourself charged with stalking in Indianapolis or anywhere in the Central Indiana area, you should seek the assistance of a seasoned criminal charges defense counsel, such as Chris Eskew of Eskew Law, LLC, as soon as possible to help you achieve a favorable result. Contact us today.
Criminal Stalking under Indiana Statute
Under Ind. Code § 35-45-10-1, stalking is defined as knowing or intentional course of conduct consisting of two or more incidents that involves repeated or continuing harassment of another person that would cause him or her to suffer emotional distress and actually causes such distress. If convicted, it is usually considered a Level 6 felony punishable by up to two and a half years of imprisonment and a fine not exceeding $10,000 as provided by Ind. Code § 35-50-2-7.
There are certain aggravating circumstances that makes stalking a Level 5 felony punishable by a possible prison term of between one and six years, and a fine not exceeding $10,000. It includes the following:
- The offender stalks a victim and makes an explicit or implicit threat with the intent to place the victim in reasonable fear of sexual battery, serious bodily injury, or death;
- A protective order to prevent domestic or family violence, a no contact order, or a workplace violence restraining order, has been issued by the court to protect the same victim or victims from the offender, and he or she has been given actual notice of the order;
- The stalking violates an order issued as a condition of pretrial release, including release on bail or personal recognizance, or pretrial diversion if the person has been given actual notice of the order;
- The stalking violates an order issued in a paternity action if the person has notice of the order;
- The stalking violates an order issued in another state, or by an Indian tribe, band, pueblo, or nation, that is substantially similar to the orders listed above if the offender has been given actual notice of the order;
- A criminal complaint of stalking that concerns an act by the offender against the same victim or victims is pending in court and the person has been given actual notice of the complaint.
The court may consider the alleged offense a Level 4 felony punishable by a prison term lasting between two and twelve years and a fine not exceeding $10,000 if the following aggravating circumstances are present:
- The stalking was committed while the offender was armed with a deadly weapon; or
- The offender has an unrelated conviction for criminal stalking against the same victim or victims.
Regardless of the severity of a stalking offense, you must reach out to an Indiana stalking attorney experienced in dealing with Indiana stalking laws.
Indiana harassment laws are outlined in Ind. Code § 35-45-10-2. This law defines harassment as “conduct directed toward a victim that includes but is not limited to repeated or continuing impermissible contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress.” Harassment is not a separate law but instead is a way courts use to determine whether someone committed a stalking offense. Thus, you can’t face harassment charges in Indiana because the government would instead charge you with stalking. In other words, the Indiana stalking laws reference the term harassment when outlining what conduct is prohibited. While Indiana law does not provide an exhaustive list of what behavior constitutes stalking, the law makes clear that it “includes but is not limited to knowingly or intentionally following or pursuing the victim.”
Cyberstalking involves a situation in which a person uses an electronic device—usually a computer or cell phone—to stalk or harass another person. Unlike many other states, Indiana does not have a specific law making cyberstalking illegal. However, cyberstalking falls under existing stalking laws in Indiana.
For example, under Ind. Code § 35-45-2-2, it is illegal to engage in harassment by obscene message. More specifically, the law provides that it is a Class B misdemeanor for someone to use a computer to communicate a message designed to “harass, annoy, or alarm another person” with no other legitimate purpose. Despite the name of the statute, in this context, there is no requirement that the message is obscene. However, sending an obscene message through a computer network is also a Class B misdemeanor under this statute. Under the stalking laws in Indiana, a message is obscene if:
- The average person would find that the message would appeal to the “prurient interest in sex”;
- The message refers to sexual activity in a patently offensive manner; and
- The message lacks any serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value.
Cyberstalking can also fall under the generic Indiana stalking law. For example, using an electronic device to engage in a knowing or intentional course of conduct involving repeated or continuous harassment of another person that would “cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened” constitutes criminal stalking. However, to prove a criminal stalking charge based on allegations of cyberstalking, the government must prove:
- The conduct was intended to cause the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened;
- A reasonable person would find the conduct would make them feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened;
- The victim actually felt terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened; and
- The conduct involved more than an isolated incident.
Criminal cyberstalking charges carry the same penalty as traditional stalking charges. Thus, the default gradation is a Level 6 felony, punishable by up to 2.5 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. However, under certain circumstances, the offense may be a Level 5 felony, punishable by one to six years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000, or a Level 4 felony, punishable by two to 12 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Protective Orders, Workplace Violence Restraining Orders, and No Contact Orders
Protective orders, as described by the Judicial Conference of Indiana, play a major part in many of the stalking cases prosecuted in Indiana. These are orders issued by a court to protect people from domestic or family violence, stalking or sex offenses. It requires the respondent (the accused offender) to stay away from the party requesting the order. On the other hand, a no contact order is often ordered by a judge upon a prosecutor’s request. It imposes reasonable restrictions on the activities, movements, associations, and residence of the defendant during the period of release and requires the defendant to refrain from any direct or indirect contact with the individual.
On the other hand, workplace violence restraining orders under Ind. Code § 34-26-6-6 are available to an employer if one of his or her employees is a victim of abuse, and the employer can request it even if no violence has occurred at the workplace. The employer can request this order from a court if the employee has experienced violence that occurred at the workplace or a credible threat of violence. This may include repeated incidents of following or stalking the employee to or from the place of work, entering the employee’s workplace, following the employee during work hours, or making phone calls to an employee during his or her work hours.
Are You Facing a Violation of Indiana Stalking Laws
If you were charged with stalking in Indianapolis or anywhere in the Central Indiana area, you must contact an experienced criminal charges defense attorney immediately. It is a serious charge that can result in severe penalties, in addition to the incursions to your personal matters by the state. Call Eskew Law, LLC or submit our online consultation request form. We will review your case, conduct a thorough investigation, and help you determine your best course of action.
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