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Stalking Laws and Implementation Practices: A National Review for Policymakers and Practitioners

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2001
324 pages
This document discusses stalking as an important policy issue for the criminal justice system.
Stalking is an important policy issue because it is a crime of terror that is far more common than most criminal justice professionals believe. Policy analysis of what needs to be done to improve anti-stalking investigation, prosecution, and provision of services to stalking victims is totally absent. This study analyzed stalking and related legislation in the 50 States, reviewed leading court decisions interpreting those laws, and conducted a survey of police and prosecutor agencies across the country to determine how the laws were being implemented. Also, field reviews were done in jurisdictions with innovative, special anti-stalking efforts, and study findings were integrated with the existing research literature on stalkers and their behavior. This study was designed to clarify the status of stalking laws and their implementation needs. Study results found that misperceptions of what constitutes stalking are widespread. Public awareness that stalking is a crime is lacking, and many criminal justice personnel also lack an understanding of their States’ anti-stalking laws. The likely number of stalking cases is over 2 million felony cases and 4 million misdemeanor cases annually -- far greater than previously estimated. Stalking has a devastating impact on its victims. Because these cases are very different from other personal injury crime, they require problem-solving approaches in their investigation and prosecution. Although every State recognizes that stalking is a crime distinct from other offenses, many State laws lack adequate penalties. Criminal procedure laws relating to stalking are often lacking. Shortcomings include the lack of warrantless arrest for misdemeanor stalking in most States, and the absence of required training on stalking for law enforcement and prosecution. Civil law parallels to criminal anti-stalking laws are not as widespread. Stalking laws have been the focus of considerable litigation. Implementation of the new stalking laws is still limited. Current special anti-stalking programs demonstrate the usefulness of developing staff expertise with stalking cases and provide models for other jurisdictions.

Date Published: October 1, 2001