The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is raising awareness about the seriousness of stalking.
Stalking is a serious offense that can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances.
According to Florida Statutes, someone is guilty of a stalking misdemeanor if they willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follow, harass, or cyberstalk another individual. ‘Harass’ means to engage in conduct directed at a specific person which causes emotional distress.
Anyone who commits a stalking misdemeanor can be sentenced up to one year in jail and be required to pay a $1,000 fine.
An aggravated stalking felony occurs when a person engages in stalking and any of the following conditions also apply:
- The person makes a credible threat to the victim.
- There is an injunction, or other court-imposed prohibition on conduct, that protects the victim or their property.
- The victim is under the age of 16.
- The person has been sentenced for certain sex crimes and were prohibited by the court from contacting the victim.
According to MCSO, a “credible threat” is a threat that places the person who is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for their own safety, or the safety of their family members or people closely associated with them. A credible threat can be verbal or non-verbal, it can include threats delivered electronically, it can be implied by a pattern of conduct, and it can be made by a person who is currently incarcerated.
An injunction is a court order, commonly called a “restraining order,” that is issued by a court to protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, or stalking. In criminal cases, when someone is released on bond, they are typically prohibited from contacting the victims.
A person who commits an aggravated stalking felony can be sentenced up to five years in prison and be required to pay a $5,000 fine.
If you or someone you know is the victim of stalking, report it to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office or to your local law enforcement agency.
For more information, visit the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Facebook webpage.