What is Considered Stalking in Arizona?
Criminal law in the U.S. is very complicated, and the rules vary across the different states. This complication is because the various U.S. states have different definitions and penalties for each offense. Stalking is one of the trickier areas of criminal law in Arizona. The meaning of and what amounts to stalking has changed over the years.
A poor understanding of the offense of stalking has made people believe many myths about the crime. In this article, we identify some of these myths and debunk them. The aim is to provide accurate information about the offense, not to commit a crime ignorantly.
So, What Exactly is Stalking?
Arizona’s Revised Statutes Criminal Code Section 13-2923 provides that a person commits the offense of stalking if the individual intentionally or knowingly engages in the course of conduct directed toward another person and that conduct causes the victim to:
1. Suffer emotional distress or reasonably fear that either:
- The victim’s property will be damaged or destroyed.
- Or the victim, certain persons in close relationship with the victim, or a domestic animal will be physically injured.
2. Reasonably fear death or the death of certain persons in a close relationship with the victim.
Stalking Myths Debunked
We examine and debunk some popular myths you may have believed about stalking below.
1. Stalking Must Involve Physical Actions
Stalking is primarily associated with physical activities such as trailing a victim. However, this isn’t all there is to stalking in Arizona. The course of conduct amounting to stalking in Arizona could be verbal or written. It includes communications in words, languages, or images through email or electronic communication to a victim without authorization or a legitimate purpose. This includes threats through social media and internet posts and comments, texts, and messages from mobile communication devices. The law even classifies continuous internet surveillance as stalking.
2. Stalking Posts and Comments Are Protected by Free Speech Rights
Free speech is a fundamental right of citizens of the U.S. So, it is unsurprising that some people believe that their stalking comments and posts on the internet involving social media threats are protected by free speech and not considered stalking. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The U.S. Supreme Court in Virginia v. Black held that free speech rights do not cover actual threats to a person. So, if your conduct towards others contains stalking posts or comments on social media, it will be considered stalking in Arizona and not protected under free speech.
3. Stalking May Be a Single Action
It would surely make us feel safer if single actions by a person can amount to the offense of stalking. However, what is considered stalking in Arizona is “a course of conduct.” This phrase implies repetitive actions and not a single action.
4. Stalking Must Be the Direct Actions of a Person
Arizona Revised Statute Section 13-2923 defines a course of conduct to include activities done “directly or indirectly, in person or through one or more third persons or by any other means.” This means that a person may yet be guilty of stalking, even where the stalking wasn’t his or her direct actions.
Engage a Criminal Defence Attorney Now!
If the police arrests you for stalking a person in Arizona, certain defenses are available for you. However, you must act fast and engage a criminal defense attorney in Arizona to help you dispel any myths you may have believed about the offense and put up a good defense for you in court.