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Posted on January 19, 2021 in Sex Crimes

A Breakdown of AZ Stalking Laws

The changes to Arizona’s stalking laws in 2016 broadened the definition of stalking. The previous stalking law only applied to the person being stalked and the person’s immediate family members. The new law extends the protection to the person’s property and other individuals in a person’s life.

Let’s look at the Arizona stalking statute in more detail to see how the law defines stalking.

Breaking Down the Arizona Stalking Statute

A.R.S. §13-2923 defines the crime of stalking. According to the statue, a person commits stalking if that person knowingly and intentionally engages in conduct that is directed toward another person and causes that person to:

1.  Experience Reasonable Fear or Emotional Distress

The victim must experience a reasonable fear that their property will be destroyed or damaged or that any of the following will be physically injured:

  • The victim
  • A member of the victim’s family
  • The victim’s livestock or domestic animal
  • Anyone that the victim is having or has had a sexual or romantic relationship
  • Anyone residing with the victim on a regular basis
  • Anyone who has resided in the victim’s home within the past six months before the last act of stalking occurred

The victim’s fear or emotional distress must be reasonable under the circumstances.

2.  Reasonably Fear Death

The victim must have a reasonable fear that they will die or fear the death of any of the following:

  • A member of the victim’s family
  • The victim’s livestock or domestic animal
  • Anyone that the victim is having or has had a sexual or romantic relationship
  • Anyone residing with the victim on a regular basis
  • Anyone who has resided in the victim’s home within the past six months before the last act of stalking occurred

Stalking under paragraph one above is a Class 5 Felony. Stalking under paragraph two above is a Class 3 Felony.

The penalty for stalking can include fines and prison sentences. Since both types of stalking are felonies, the penalties can be severe. If there are aggravating circumstances, the penalties for a conviction may increase.

What Does the Statute Mean by “Course of Conduct” and “Emotional Distress”?

The course of conduct is what the alleged stalker did to cause the victim to experience emotional distress or fear. The statute clearly states what is meant by course of conduct.

According to the statute, course of conduct means to indirectly or directly:

  • Maintain physical or visual proximity to a specific person on two or more occasions over a period of time
  • Direct written, verbal, or other threats (implied or express) to a specific person on two or more occasions over a period of time
  • Use a digital, electronic, or GPS device to conduct surveillance of a specific person or that person’s wireless or internet activity for 12 continuous hours on two or more occasions over a period of time, without authorization
  • Communicate or cause to be communicated language, words, or images to a specific person without authorization through the use of email or electronic communication on more than one occasion

The person being charged with stalking may have engaged in the above conduct personally or by acting through one or more third parties.

The statute also defines emotional distress. The statute says that emotional distress means distress or mental suffering that might require medical or professional counseling and treatment. However, the statute does not require that the victim undergo medical or professional treatment to meet the definition of emotional distress.

What Should I Do if I am Arrested for Stalking in Arizona?

If you are arrested for stalking, do not talk to the police. Do not answer questions or give a statement. It is best to remain silent except for confirming your identity and address.

Remember, police officers can lie to you. They are trained to get you to talk after an arrest.

Do not be tricked into saying anything other than you want to talk with a lawyer. Anything you say could be used against you. Even if you are innocent, you need to consult with an attorney before you say anything.

When you are released from jail, do not contact the alleged victim. Do not contact anyone related to the victim or connected to the victim. Do not go near the victim, the victim’s home, or the victim’s work or school.

Instead, focus on assisting your criminal lawyer with your defense. As you prepare for your consultation with an attorney, write down everything you can remember related to the stalking allegations. If you have documentation from the victim, including emails, text messages, or other communication, make copies for your defense lawyer.

Write down the names and contact information for any witnesses in your case. Include anyone you can think of that might testify on behalf of the alleged victim. Your lawyer needs to know who could provide testimony for and against you if you go to court.

Make sure that you do not engage in any conduct listed in the statute above. When in doubt, contact your lawyer. Your conduct after your arrest could be as important to your defense as your conduct before your arrest.