Menacing by Stalking
It is illegal to repeatedly harass a person to the point where he or she fears for his or her safety or are caused mental distress. The process of adjudicating a stalking situation is complex due to both criminal charges of stalking and civil protective orders. A domestic violence situation also introduces a lot of negotiation around access to shared housing, vehicles, and child custody.
Dayton Menacing by Stalking Lawyer
If you are facing charges for menacing by stalking in Dayton or the surrounding areas, call (937) 356-3969 to set up a consultation with attorney Brian Joslyn. This confidential call is free of charge, but will be a thorough review of your situation and our advice on what to do next. We can manage both your civil protective order hearings as well as defend your criminal charges. Joslyn Law Firm knows that domestic situations can be extremely taxing on you. There is quite a bit of back and forth, and to maintain a good position with the court, you need an experienced defense lawyer.
Brian Joslyn has been passionate about defending the accused since his teen years when he experienced a false arrest. Joslyn Law Firm knows that everyone has financial restraints. We will talk through a number of methods to afford you a proper defense. The decisions made in this case can affect your family and work relations for a number of years and should be made with the best possible counsel.
Dayton, Ohio Menacing by Stalking Information Center
- What is menacing by stalking in Ohio?
- What constitutes as menacing by stalking?
- Cyberstalking Laws in Ohio
- What consequences does a person face if convicted of these charges?
- Are there any defenses against these allegations?
- How do protection orders work?
- Additional Resources
Ohio Revised Code § 2903.211 states that no person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the alleged offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person. In addition, the other person's belief or mental distress may be based on words or conduct of the alleged offender that are directed at the other person’s employer.
Examples of menacing by stalking include:
- Repeatedly driving by the victim’s home or work or following the victim
- Harassing phone calls, voice messages, text messages, letters, or emails that can be interpreted as threatening or cause mental distress of the victim
- Trespassing, burglarizing, or vandalizing the victim’s home
- Leaving threatening notes or objects for the victim
The code also states that, using any electronic method, a person who posts a message with purpose to urge or incite another to commit the offense of stalking, is also punishable as though they had committed the act. In other words, a flippant Facebook comment or other social media post can be interpreted very seriously in the court of law.
What Constitutes the Offense of Stalking in Ohio?
To be prosecuted for menacing by stalking, the prosecution must prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury. These elements can be found under the Ohio Revised Code Section 2903.211, which states you’re guilty of stalking if you:
- Engage in a pattern of conduct that would cause another person to believe you will inflict physical or mental harm to them, family member, or friend of the victim. The victim’s belief they could be harmed may be based on your past words or conduct towards the victim or a corporation, association, or other organization that employs the victim or in which the victim belongs; OR
- Post a message through either written communication or electronic wireless contact or use an intentionally written/verbal graphic gesture with the purpose to do one of the following:
- Cause the victim to believe you will inflict physical or mental harm to them, their family, their employer, their organization, or someone they know due to your past words and conduct; or
- To urge or incite another person to do the above
Cyberstalking Laws in Ohio
As technology develops, more and more stalking cases either involve online platforms or are mostly comprised of internet harassment. Stalking someone online, also referred to as cyberstalking, is just as illegal as harassing or stalking a person face-to-face. The Ohio Revised Code states sending a written communication online that could cause the victim to fear physical or mental harm is illegal. The crime can result serious penalties such as jail time and expensive fines, even if you never approached the alleged victim physically.
Cyberstalking can take on many different forms, but usually it involves harassment on social media platforms, forums, or email. It’s typically a planned act and lasts for a long period of time. Most cases of cyberstalking are harmless, but when it becomes frightening the victim can turn to law enforcement as it’s now a crime.
Listed below are several examples of cyberstalking.
- Spreading false rumors about someone on public forums
- Gathering personal information and then using it to harass/blackmail the victim
- Threatening harm mentally or physically online through messages, posts, etc.
- Hacking into the alleged victims online accounts
- Using decoy accounts to send the alleged victim harassment
- Impersonating the victim through false online accounts
- Posting the victims personal information on public forums or online spaces
- Signing the victim up for numerous online mailing or call lists using their information
A first conviction for menacing by stalking is a misdemeanor of the first degree. A fine of up to $1,000 may be levied in addition to court costs. A maximum jail term of six months may be imposed.
A felony of the fourth degree will be applied if any of the following can be shown:
- The offender has a prior conviction or pleaded guilty to stalking or aggravated trespass
- In committing the stalking offense, the offender made a threat of physical harm to or against the victim (or an online post has a threat of physical harm against the victim)
- In committing the stalking offense, the offender trespassed on the premises where the victim lives, is employed, or attends school
- The victim is a minor
- The offender has a history of violence toward the victim or any other person
- While committing the offense, the offender had a deadly weapon on or about the offender's person or under the offender's control
- At the time of the commission of the offense, the offender was the subject of a protection order regardless of whether the person to be protected under the order is the victim of the offense
- In committing the offense, the offender caused serious physical harm to the premises at which the victim resides
- Prior to committing the offense, the offender had been determined to represent a substantial risk of physical harm to others as manifested by evidence of then-recent homicidal or other violent behavior
In Ohio, a fourth-degree felony may be punished by six to 18 months in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. Felonies are considerably more damaging than misdemeanors. They revoke your right to own a firearm, serve on a jury, vote, and bar you from many jobs and professional licenses. Educational opportunities, housing options, and financial credit are severely impacted.
Looking at the statute, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The offender engaged in a pattern of conduct, meaning two or more times within a short period of time. We will meticulously question the evidence that shows you encroached upon or contacted the victim enough to represent a pattern.
- The offender acted knowingly in their efforts to cause mental distress or the threat of physical harm. The offender must understand that their actions will lead to these specific consequences in the victim. A lack of mental capacity to understand ones’ actions is a defense to stalking.
- The actions caused the threat of physical harm or mental distress. A victim can show they suffer from mental distress in a number of ways, including avoiding regular activities, changing a daily route to work or school, carrying a weapon, moving in with friends, or signs of emotional distress like crying spells or a lack of focus.
A petitioner (alleged victim) can request a Stalking Protection Order against a respondent (alleged offender) for stalking. If the petitioner and respondent are in a familial relationship, romantic relationship, or cohabitate, the court can issue a Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order. The restraining order may result in your loss of access to a shared home, vehicle, and will certainly weigh into child custody arrangements. They can last up to five years, and should be treated with the seriousness of a criminal trial.
To obtain a Stalking Protection Order, the petitioner must show a pattern of conduct that causes distress or makes the victim believe the respondent will cause physical harm. Any violation can result in a 30 day jail term.
Courts can order respondents:
- To keep a specific distance from the victim
- To refrain from contacting the victim in any way, even with messages through other people
- To not enter the premises of the victim’s residence, workplace, or school
- To not encroach onto or remove a person’s property, including pets
- To complete counseling or substance abuse treatment
- To turn over weapons to police, and prohibit future gun access
- To wear an electronic monitoring device
- Any other relief the court considers “equitable and fair”
A Domestic Violence Civil Protection Order takes into account the shared life of parties to a domestic violence dispute. The court can weigh in on matters of:
- Access to a shared household
- Access to shared assets such as a vehicle
- Duty to support the victim or victim’s children
- Temporary child custody and visitation orders
- Returning property of the victim’s
Stalking Resources Center | NCVC – Visit the official website for the National Center for Victims of Crime to learn more about their resources for stalking victims. Access the site to read response tips to stalking, read articles about online personal safety, watch their video resources, and further help for victims of menacing by stalking.
Menacing by Stalking Ohio Law – Visit the official website for the Ohio Revised Code to read up on their statute prohibiting menacing by stalking. Access the site to learn more about the crime itself, what elevates it to a felony, legal definitions for the statute, and other related crimes.
COVID-19 Restrictions for Montgomery County Court – Visit the official website for the Montgomery County courts to learn their current guidelines on entering the building during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access the site to learn who has access, what crimes require an in-person hearing, what’s required when entering the building, face cover requirements, and their social distancing policies.
Find the Best Menacing by Stalking Lawyer in Dayton
Joslyn Law Firm manages each of our cases with care, confidentiality, and commitment. Taking family situations into the courtroom can breed embarrassment and high levels of stress. Call a domestic violence defense lawyer to understand your rights as the accused. Though some people in your life may jump to conclusions, Joslyn Law Firm will see you through the entirety of your case and protection order hearings, compiling solid evidence and always remaining your fiercest defender. Call (937) 356-3969 to discuss your case in a free, no obligation consultation. Visit us in our Beavercreek or Columbus offices.