Definition of ‘Stalking’ Expanded in Texas

Texas law treats domestic violence as a serious crime. All reported acts of domestic abuse – a crime that ranges broadly from verbal threats to physical battery – will be investigated by law enforcement. A conviction on domestic violence charges can bring serious criminal consequences, including a lengthy prison term.

Texas’ domestic violence laws have tended to get stricter over time. Recently, the state changed its criminal code to broaden the definition of stalking. It did so because of the strong connection between stalking and violent crime. Data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that approximately 75 percent of female homicides and 85 percent of attempted female homicides started with stalking.

What Is Stalking?

Broadly speaking, stalking involves a person who attempts to control someone else’s behavior through threats, intimidation or fear. Under Texas law, stalking is defined as repeated conduct intended to threaten bodily injury or death to the targeted person, a member of the targeted person’s family or household, or a person the target is dating. Stalking also includes threats of offenses against the targeted person’s property.

In other words, stalking is much more than simply following another person around. It could take the form of repeated emails, phone calls or text messages. Stalking does not necessarily require personal contact – for example, repeated damage to property can fit the definition.

A common defense to stalking is that a reasonable person would not have been put in fear of harm by the perpetrator’s behavior.

What Are the Penalties for Stalking?

In Texas, stalking is a felony of the third degree. Third degree felonies are punishable by between two and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Repeat stalking offenses are felonies of the second degree, punishable by between two and 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

What if I Am Accused of Stalking?

If you are accused of stalking, you need to take the allegations seriously. You should immediately cease contact with the person making the claim, even if you do not believe you have done anything wrong.

Then, you need to take steps to plan your defense and protect your rights. Talk to a Houston criminal defense attorney who can help you respond to the charges against you.