Stalking: It's a Crime
What is Stalking?
In general, stalking involves intentional and repeated behaviors that place an individual in reasonable fear for his or her safety. Stalking is a course of conduct used to maintain contact with, or exercise power and control over, another individual. Stalking is serious, often violent, and can escalate over time. Stalking is a crime.
Some Things Stalkers Do
- Follow you and show up wherever you are;
- Repeatedly call you, including hang ups;
- Damage your home, car, or other property;
- Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or emails;
- Monitor your phone calls or computer use;
- Threaten you or someone close to you;
- Drive by or hang out at your home, school, or work;
- Find out about you by using public records or on line search services, hiring investigators, going through your garbage, or contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers;
- Repeatedly show up for no legitimate purpose at places where you are; and
- Other actions that control, track, or frighten you.
Iowa Stalking Law and Penalties
Under Iowa law,"stalking" is a repeated course of conduct intended to cause fear of bodily injury or death to you or to a member of your immediate household.
Changes made to the Stalking Law in 1994 strengthened the penalties for a stalking conviction. First-offense stalking is an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a fine of $500 to $5,000.
Stalking is a Class "D" felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $500 to $7,500 fine, for any of the following situations: a second offense, stalking in violation of a no-contact order, stalking with a dangerous weapon, or stalking someone under age eighteen.
A third or subsequent offense is a Class "C" felony, punishable by up to ten years in prison and/or a $500 to $10,000 fine.
What steps should you take if you are being stalked?
Call the Police or Sheriff
This is the first thing to do when stalking incidents occur. Explain exactly what happened and what threats were made against you.
Take Extra Precautions
Your first defense against stalking is to have a heightened awareness of what is happening around you. You may want to tell others about the threat as well - neighbors, family, work mates. Ask them to keep an eye out for strange occurrences.
Simple precautions you may have considered already include locking your home (preferably with dead-bolt locks) and locking your car while you are driving and when you park. Check to see that no one has hidden in your car before you get in it. Park in well-lit, secure areas. Avoid walking alone in dark areas at night, or in isolated areas at any time of the day.
Keep a notebook or calendar
Record all detailed information about each encounter with the stalker. Your notes can refresh your memory later, should you need to speak with police or testify in court. Be sure to include the date, time, location, full description of the person, words spoken, actions taken during the incident, actions you took afterward, and names of witnesses. You may wish to record threats made over the telephone or other encounters.
Contact your county attorney's office
Some counties have victim/witness coordinators who can help you and keep you informed about your case if charges are filed.
What if the Stalker is a former spouse or partner?
If you are being stalked in a domestic abuse situation, there is a network of domestic abuse programs throughout the state that may be able to help.
Domestic abuse programs offer free, confidential advice and counseling. Most provide shelters to victims who are not safe in their own home. These programs also offer advocacy with the criminal justice system.
Call your local domestic abuse program or the statewide Iowa Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-942-0333. The phone is answered 24 hours a day.
No-contact orders can be issued separately, or with a civil or criminal domestic abuse case.A person who violates a no-contact order can be found in contempt of court and jailed or fined. To find out what type of no-contact order you can apply for, contact a private attorney, legal aid or legal services, the county attorney, or the clerk of court.