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Criminal Defense

Ohio’s serial stalking laws: everything you need to know

By December 1, 2021No Comments

Stalking laws have been around for a while, but in recent years, many states have been attempting to address the problem of cyberstalking in their criminal codes, as well.

In Ohio, the law defines stalking as a repeated pattern of intimidation, and sets forward some serious penalties for the behavior, whether it occurs in real life or on the internet.

So what exactly counts as stalking in Ohio? And what consequences will you face if you’re charged with it?

From Hiltner Trial Lawyers, here’s everything you need to know about Ohio’s stalking laws.

What counts as stalking in Ohio?

Ohio’s laws against stalking are laid out in the Ohio Revised Code Section 2903.211:

“No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or a family or household member of the other person or cause mental distress to the other person or a family or household member of the other person.”

This means there are a number of elements to proving stalking:

  • It must be a pattern of behavior
  • It must be intentional
  • It must cause the subject of the stalking to believe that the defendant will cause them physical harm or mental distress
  • It can also apply if the harassment is targeted at a family or household member

It’s important to remember that you can be found guilty of stalking whether your actions were “sexually motivated” or not.

Here are some examples of behavior that could be considered stalking:

  • Repeated phone calls
  • Showing up at someone’s workplace
  • Vandalizing someone’s property
  • Parking outside someone’s home

In addition, stalking simply refers to a repeated pattern of threatening behavior. Any explicit threat of physical violence against someone can be charged separately as menacing or aggravated menacing.

What are the consequences of a stalking conviction in Ohio?

Based on the above definition, stalking is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

However, a stalking charge may be bumped up to a fourth-degree felony in any of the following circumstances:

  • The defendant has previous stalking convictions
  • The victim was a minor
  • The defendant has a history of violence toward the victim
  • The defendant trespassed on or damaged the victim’s property
  • The defendant violated a court order protecting the victim

A fourth-degree felony is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

What about cyberstalking?

There are a number of provisions in Ohio law intended to punish people who commit cyberstalking offenses, as well.

The same statute that defines stalking also includes the following in its definition:

“No person, through the use of any form of written communication or any electronic method of remotely transferring information… shall post a message or use any intentionally written or verbal graphic gesture” to stalk someone.

Importantly, this definition includes urging other people to stalk someone. This can be used to prosecute coordinated harassment campaigns in which one person encourages many other people to stalk someone through electronic means.

There is also a separate law against telecommunications harassment, which includes stalking, threatening, or sexual invitations, among other things.

Contact an Ohio criminal defense attorney today

At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we make it our job to protect your rights and help you keep your life from getting off track. If you’re accused of stalking or a related charge, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and talk about your case.