Maryland Updates Stalking Law To Include Electronic Communication
In October of 2022, Maryland updated its stalking laws to include electronic communications that are meant to instill fear or the threat of physical violence. Up until this point, stalking had to be conducted in person. The text of the law included the words “approaching or pursuing”. In this manner, those who committed digital forms of harassment or stalking were exempted from the statute.
Stalkers, however, don’t limit themselves to in-person stalking. The new Maryland law reflects the reality that stalkers use digital forms of communication to induce a victim to fear for their own lives or the threat of being sexually assaulted.
The new provision was passed after a committee was formed by survivors of stalking who testified before Maryland’s legislature concerning how stalkers are increasingly using digital forms of communication to stalk their victims.
The use of digital location devices
One of the ways in which stalkers target their victims is through the use of digital communication devices placed on their vehicles to track their location. The revised law specifies that stalking can occur through the use of a device that can pinpoint or track the location of the victim without their knowledge or consent.
In some cases, cameras or microphones have been placed in a victim’s home to monitor their activity. Under the old rule, these were not considered factors for a stalking prosecution. Under the revised law, the courts can consider this type of behavior when determining whether or not an individual is guilty of stalking.
Judges who are considering protective orders against a stalker will be able to incorporate evidence of digital stalking. This will help prevent an escalation of threatening behavior.
Understanding Maryland’s stalking laws
Under Maryland law, stalking constitutes any pattern of conduct that is meant to intimidate or harass a victim and make them fear imminent bodily harm or death. Instead of constituting one act of harassing behavior, the law makes a pattern of conduct the key evidence in a stalking case. In other words, to be convicted of stalking, the prosecution must establish that you engaged in a course of conduct over a period of time that made the victim fear that you would cause them harm.
By extending the law to include digital forms of stalking, cases are now easier for prosecutors to prove. The law was extended to help protect victims because digital forms of stalking often lead to in-person forms of stalking.
It bears noting that the majority of stalkers know their victims or were even ex-partners. In these cases, the law protects women and men who were in abusive relationships with obsessive partners.
Talk to a Bel Air, MD Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The Bel Air, MD criminal defense lawyers at Schlaich & Thompson represent the interests of those who have been charged with serious crimes in the state of Maryland. Call our office today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing your defense strategy right away.