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Arrests and Prosecution of Stalkers

Date Published
October 24, 2007

Three factors can have a direct impact on what charges a prosecutor is able to bring before a court: the decisions police officers make at the crime scene, what information they record, and the demeanor of victims. NIJ-funded research in this area has identified some of the challenges to the criminal justice system's ability to respond effectively to allegations of stalking:

  • A 2001 study of 1,785 domestic violence crime reports found that those reports that also contained stalking allegations were significantly less likely to mention physical abuse or victim injury, to involve victims and suspects who were using alcohol at the time of the report, or to involve households with children. [1] These facts suggest that victims of domestic violence who also alleged stalking presented themselves as less distraught and the situation as less inflammatory, and that attending officers assumed the situations were less serious.
  • In the 285 reports that were determined to contain stalking allegations, only 2.9 percent mentioned the word "stalking" in the victim narrative that accompanied the report, and only one case resulted in formal stalking charges being filed by police.
  • Victims who reported being stalked were significantly more likely to have an active restraining order against the suspect and to request notification of further action in the case. They were significantly less likely to be emotionally distraught at the time of the report.
  • Police officers were more likely to charge suspects with misdemeanors rather than felony offenses. Suspects were routinely charged with harassment, intimidation, or violation of a restraining order—rarely with stalking. Officers were less likely to issue a companion summons if the victim alleged stalking. [2]

About This Article

The research described in this article was supported by NIJ grant number 1997–WT–VX–0002 awarded to the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

This article is based on the grant report "Stalking: Its Role in Serious Domestic Violence Cases," (pdf, 72 pages) by Patricia Tjaden, Ph.D., and Nancy Thoennes, Ph.D.

Date Published: October 24, 2007