Stalking is a serious crime in North Carolina. It’s an invasion of privacy that not only makes victims fearful in the moment but can also be traumatic for them in the long term. This is why North Carolina has specific laws that make stalking against the law.
However, stalking doesn’t usually happen in a vacuum. It is a crime that has close ties to both sexual assault and domestic violence. If someone is found to perpetrate stalking against a person who qualifies as a domestic violence victim, the consequences can be even more severe.
Here’s what you need to know about stalking laws in North Carolina including the penalties that can be faced and how it is related to crimes of domestic violence.
Stalking in North Carolina
In North Carolina, state lawmakers recognize there is a link between stalking and domestic violence. Therefore, the laws surrounding stalking in the state seek to make stalking a criminal act itself so that it doesn’t further escalate to a crime of domestic violence.
A person commits stalking in North Carolina when they:
- Willfully harass or follow another person with a legal reason willfully
- Follow another person with the intent to put them in fear of their safety
- Cause substantial emotional distress in another person by putting them in fear of bodily injury or death through harassment or following
- Engage in willful conduct that is aimed at a specific person, understanding that the harassment or conduct would cause them to be put in fear or in emotional distress
So, what types of actions constitute stalking under the law? If any of the following are done at least two times, it is considered stalking:
- Interfering with their property
Stalking can be performed in person but also through devices, actions, methods, or means.
Additionally, harassment is defined under the law as conduct one participates in knowingly that terrorizes, terrifies, or torments someone. This can happen through written or printed communications or via phone or computer.
Stalking is seen by the court as a pattern of behavior, which is why it needs to occur more than once to qualify as stalking.
Is Stalking Domestic Violence?
Stalking laws are intentionally broad, because lawmakers understand that stalking as a crime often forms part of domestic violence.
Under North Carolina law, someone commits domestic violence if they perform certain acts against a person with whom they share a personal relationship or a child. These acts include:
- Placing someone in fear of serious bodily injury
- Attempting to cause bodily injury, or terrifying
If the actions perpetrated constitute stalking, and they are done against someone with whom the defendant has a close personal relationship, then stalking can be considered domestic violence. This can impact the severity of the penalty.
Penalties for Stalking
The penalties for stalking in North Carolina depend on whether it is the first stalking offense or a repeated offense. If the stalking statute is violated for the first time, then it’s charged as an A1 misdemeanor. That can result in as many as five months in prison, although it is ultimately determined by the judge.
For repeat offenders, a Class H or Class G felony can be charged. Often, a Class G felony is charged if the person has a previous offense of stalking on their criminal record, in which case they can be sentenced for up to 31 years behind bars. However, if stalking occurs when there is a court order in place for domestic violence, then 25 months in prison can be sentenced.