Stalking Laws in Virginia

stalking laws in virginia

Stalking, as defined by Virginia Code §18.2-60.3, involves purposefully participating in actions that instill fear of death, criminal sexual activity, or bodily harm in another person. To secure a conviction for stalking in Virginia under this statute, the Commonwealth is required to demonstrate that the accused, on at least two occasions, undertook intentional conduct directed towards another individual with the aim of causing fear of death, criminal sexual activity, or bodily injury to that person or a member of their family.

Engaged in Conduct: Engaging in specific behaviors such as following someone, loitering near their residence or workplace, making threatening or obscene phone calls, or initiating unwanted online contact through social media can serve as grounds for a stalking charge in Virginia.

At least Twice: To secure a conviction for stalking in Virginia, the offender must have deliberately committed such actions with the intent to instill fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily harm in the victim on at least two distinct occasions.

Intent to Place in Fear: The requisite intent for convicting a stalking offender in Virginia involves either a direct intention to cause fear or the knowledge that the conduct will likely induce fear. Conviction is also possible if the offender should have reasonably known that their behavior would cause fear. The fear mentioned relates to a rational concern about the prospect of death, criminal sexual activity, or physical harm. The specific type of fear-induced behavior does not need to be consistent each time for a stalking conviction in Virginia.

Person: The targeted conduct aimed at inducing fear must be directed at another individual. This person can be the intended victim or an individual belonging to the family or household of the intended victim. The phrase “family or household member” is delineated in VA Code §16.1-228, encompassing:

  • The person’s spouse
  • The person’s former spouse
  • The person’s parents, stepparents, children, stepchildren, brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, grandparents, and grandchildren
  • The person’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and sisters-in-law residing in the same home
  • Any individual who shares a child with the person
  • Any individual who cohabits with the person or has cohabited with them within the past 12 months, along with any children of either party residing in the same home.

Protective Orders

In Virginia, courts have the authority to issue protective orders against individuals accused or convicted of stalking. These orders prohibit any form of contact between the offender and the victim or the victim’s family. Additionally, they forbid the offender from making threats or engaging in violence towards the victim or the victim’s family. Violating the terms of a stalking protective order may result in a Class 1 misdemeanor, as per VA Code §18.2-60.4. Contempt of court or additional criminal charges may also be brought if the violation constitutes a separate crime.

Emergency Protective Orders (VA Code §19.2-152.8)

The court can issue an emergency protective order against an accused stalker under §19.2-152.8, preventing contact with the alleged victim or a family member. The presence of the offender is not required for the issuance of this protective order. Violating the terms of an emergency protective order after being served can lead to contempt of court. These orders, issued in response to a stalking charge in Virginia, remain valid for 3 days.

Stalking Preliminary Protective Order (VA Code §19.2-152.9):

Upon conviction of stalking in Virginia, a preliminary protective order is issued against the stalker, prohibiting contact with the victim or their family. This order is effective for 15 days, and a violation can result in an additional criminal charge.

Stalking Protective Orders (VA Code §19.2-152.10):

Within 15 days of issuing the preliminary protective order, the court can conduct a hearing to issue a stalking protective order, preventing contact between the offender and the victim or their family. This protective order can be valid for any period of up to two years. The victim also has the option to seek an extension of the protective order for an additional two years.

Stalking Penalties in Virginia

Stalking in Virginia, as defined by VA Code §18.2-60.3, is classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Conviction for this offense can result in a sentence of up to 12 months in jail, a fine not exceeding $2500, and the issuance of a no-contact order prohibiting communication between the offender and the victim, as well as the victim’s spouse or child. 

Violating the no-contact order, as outlined in Va. Code §18.2-60.3(D), is considered contempt. Subsequent convictions within a 5-year period elevate the offense to a Class 6 felony, attracting penalties of up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $2500.

Furthermore, breaches of protective orders associated with stalking charges in Virginia may lead to contempt of court, additional criminal charges, or independent Class 1 misdemeanor charges for violating a protective order.

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