Most of us know what stalking is without having to define it. Maybe someone is following you down the street for a few blocks when you get off work. Perhaps an ex-husband or ex-lover is repeatedly calling your phone and showing up at your home. Whatever the situation, stalking laws are designed to protect people from this kind of behavior. Here’s a summary of how Vermont law defines and punishes stalking.
Vermont Stalking Laws
Vermont defines stalking as “a course of conduct which consists of following, lying in wait for, or harassing” someone that “serves no legitimate purpose” and would “cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her physical safety” or suffer “substantial emotional distress.” That’s the legal definition on the books. In practice, it’s important to remember a few things.
First, “course of conduct” refers to repeated occasions. That’s normally a key part of stalking law wherever you go – it has to happen more than once. Second, “serving no legitimate purpose” excludes people who have a reason to follow and find people – such as servers of process or, say, the police. And finally, the “reasonable person” language is meant to confine stalking offenses to serious matters that would upset most people. This can often come into play when there’s a romantic history or a history of violence in the background. Something that might cause an ex-spouse emotional distress but wouldn’t upset “a reasonable person” isn't stalking.
Vermont law punishes stalking with up to two years imprisonment and maximum $5,000 fine. There’s also the more serious crime of aggravated stalking. Aggravated stalking involves both stalking and something else – such as violating a court order prohibiting stalking or previous convictions for stalking or violent crimes against the victim. As you might expect aggravated stalking is more severely punished.
|Code Sections||Stalking: Vt. Stat. tit. 13, §§ 1061, 1062.Aggravated Stalking: § 1063.|
|Stalking Defined As||Intentionally following, lying in wait for, or harassing a person that serves no legitimate purpose and would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her physical safety or suffer substantial emotional distress.|
Stalking: Max 2 years imprisonment and $5,000 fine; Aggravated Stalking: Max 5 years imprisonment and $25,000 fine.
|Penalty for Repeat Offense||Repeated stalking can become aggravated stalking.|
|Arrest or Restraining Order Specifically Authorized by Statute?||-|
|Constitutionally Protected Activities Exempted?||Yes, doesn't constitute a "course of conduct" or else falls within the “legitimate purpose” exception.|
Related Resources for Stalking Laws
Stalking crimes are relatively recent additions to state criminal codes. You can fine more general information about stalking and state stalking laws on these pages. For more specific information about a particular case, we recommend contacting a Vermont criminal law attorney.
Contact a qualified attorney.