Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant

You have a right to defend yourself against a stalker. But you must go about it in the right way.

The attorney general has outlined some prevention and intervention strategies that can help shield you from stalking.

There is often confusion concerning what constitutes stalking. A stalker, through behavior or threats, tries to intimidate or terrify a person. A stalker’s mind can run from obsessive love to obsessive hate. Stalking can take the form of verbal threats, threats conveyed by the stalker’s conduct, threatening mail, property damage, surveillance of the victims or by following the victim. How do you snow if stalking is occurring? The stalker, on more than one occasion, is stalking you if they:

• Follow you or your family

• Vandalize your property

• Damages you car, harms a pet, breaks a window

• Drives by or parks near you home, work or other places you frequent. 

Sometimes a stalking charge is not appropriate but criminal mischief or terroristic threats can be filed.

The penalty for criminal mischief is determined by the amount of damage.

A terroristic threat charge is a Class B misdemeanor. The Texas stalking law makes stalking a Class A misdemeanor. If the stalker has one prior conviction for stalking, then the crime is upgraded to a felony of the third degree.

In addition, when a stalker is released from jail or escapes, the releasing officer is required to make a reasonable effort to contact the victim.

It is important that the victim notify those handling the case of any phone number or address changes.

To file a stalking charge we must prove the intent of the stalker.

This means proving the stalker has the intent or the knowledge that his or her actions will instill fear of death or serious bodily injury.

The threats can be explicit or implied. These threats have to be aimed at a specific person and they cannot be general threats. 

The stalker’s conduct must have occurred on more that one occasion. However, more than one police report is not required.

If you are having problems with a situation you feel may involve stalking, contact the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction.

The agency may not be able to help immediately but will start the important documentation process.

In next month’s column we will discuss the things you need to do to provide evidence against your stalker and the safety measures you should take to protect yourself.