What is Stalking?
If someone is following or observing you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you could have a stalker. Stalking is a crime in North Carolina and is more common than you may believe. According to one study, “An estimated 6-7.5 million people are stalked in a one year period in the United States. Nearly 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking victimization at some point in their lifetime.” (1)
While some stalking occurs by a stranger, most stalking is done by current or former intimate partners. With the advancement of technology, stalking someone is easier than ever before.
Stalking behavior can include any kind of monitoring behavior and sometimes even escalates into violence or intimidation. Let’s look at stalking laws in North Carolina legal terms and see how you can find the help you need.
Legal Definition of Stalking in NC?
Every state has different laws about what stalking is and how victims of stalking may find help from law enforcement. In North Carolina, the courts expanded the legal definition to include many different forms of stalking. Stalking does not always include threats of violence. Rather it is is when someone takes action on more than one occasion to knowingly harassing and cause someone to fear for their safety or causes substantial emotional distress. (2)
It includes any pattern of behavior where someone uses any means of communication, including other people, to make repeated unwanted contact with you or harass you. The connection could even just be watching you or sending you a message of some type.
Or, it could be that the stalker is following you, keeping up with your schedule for every hour of the day, filming you repeatedly without your permission, or threatening you. Stalking could also include someone constantly disturbing your property. There are many ways that a person can stalk another.
If you feel like you are a victim of stalking, there are many ways that you can be protected. Stalking is a criminal offense in North Carolina charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in violation of N.C General Statute 14-277.3A.
You can protect yourself by obtaining a restraining order, regardless of whether you were in a personal relationship with the person. For example, stalking behavior can be committed by a co-worker, neighbor, or stranger. If you have a restraining order in place, and someone continues to stalk you in violation of the restraining order, law enforcement can elevate the criminal stalking charge to a felony.
Legal Recognition of Stalking Behavior in NC
The law recognizes if someone’s stalking behavior causes you to:
- Fear death or injury from the stalker
- Suffer significant mental suffering or distress
- Fear continued harassment by the stalker
- Fear for your safety or that of your family or close friends
Stalking can include any kind of behavior toward you that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies you and serves no legitimate purpose.
What Laws Protect Me?
Domestic Violence Protective Order (50B)
If you have a “personal relationship” with the offender, you can seek specific forms of protection under a Domestic Violence Protective Order. A DVPO also grants law enforcement the power to charge the defendant criminally if they violate the order.
A personal relationship in North Carolina is defined as:
- Current or former spouse
- Opposite sex person who lives with you or did live with you previously
- Persons related as parents and children, including those acting as a parent or grandparent to a minor child (Order against children under age 16 not allowed)
- Individual you have a child with
- Current or former household members
- Person of the opposite sex in a dating relationship or who was in a dating relationship. (Despite the “opposite sex” language on the forms, at Scharff Law, we have had success filing for same-sex relationships)
Civil No-Contact Order (50C)
A Civil No-Contact Order is a restraining order to legally help victims of sexual assault or stalking who do NOT have a “personal relationship” with the offender.
Law enforcement has less ability to enforce this order than with a DVPO. However, the 50C does order someone to stay away from you. In addition, if someone continues to contact you after you have a 50C in place, law enforcement may be able to charge someone with felony stalking. To file for a Civil No-Contact Order, you must NOT have a “personal relationship” with the person who harmed you, and you must have been the victim of “unlawful conduct,” which includes stalking.
How Do I Find Help?
Even though stalking behavior is threatening, it may be challenging to help law enforcement see just how serious your situation is. Sometimes victims find that law enforcement does not take their claim seriously or that you have a hard time proving the stalking to law enforcement.
Although it may be difficult, it’s helpful to document the ongoing stalking behavior and keep records such as text messages, phone call logs, voicemails, social media messages, emails, etc. You may also find it helpful to use this Incident Log to track the stalking behavior. Showing the log to law enforcement, a magistrate, or an attorney can help establish your case.
Contact an attorney specializing in stalking and restraining orders to find your way forward. An attorney who understands what evidence you must collect can discuss your civil and criminal options for finding peace.
We Can Help
At Scharff Law, we work with stalking and domestic abuse victims to find solutions that bring peace back into your life. With an experienced legal team on your side, you know your next steps and how to find your way through the often confusing judicial system in North Carolina. If you feel threatened or afraid of someone, whether you know the person or not, seek help from someone who understands what you are facing.
We specialize in filing No Contact and Domestic Violence Protective Orders for anyone who needs protection, regardless of age, sex, gender identity, religion, or culture. We attend hearings and represent you in any legal proceedings. Our team can also advise you on how to work with law enforcement. We can help you report incidents of stalking in the criminal court systems. Contact us for a free initial consultation and find out how we can help you.