stalking

What is Stalking in Texas?

What is Stalking in Texas?

Stalking is a criminal offense in Texas that is defined under Penal Code 42.072. Stalking occurs when a person, on more than one occasion and pursuant to the same course of conduct, does things that he or she reasonably believes will put the victim in fear of damage to their property, bodily injury, or death. This is generally a third degree offense, unlike the similar charge of harassment which is generally a misdemeanor.

Stalking charges generally require a course of action that goes beyond phone calls and texts, although those could rise to the level of stalking depending on the content of the communication. The prosecutor, court, and potentially a jury, will look at what the accused’s thoughts were. The mental state requirement for stalking is knowingly.

Texas Stalking Facts

Sam Houston State University did a study on stalking in Texas and found that over 18% of 700 randomly selected Texas residents said they were victims of stalking. Other interesting facts they published included:

  • Stalking victims are most likely to be under 35 years of age.
  • Men (16%) and women (19.9%) were about equally likely to be stalked.
  • Over 50% of stalking victims were acquainted with their stalkers.

What Level of Offense is Stalking?

Stalking is generally a third degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison. Stalking can be enhanced to a second degree felony with a 20-year cap if the person has been previously convicted of stalking.

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What does it mean to act “Knowingly” under Texas Law?

The nature-oriented definition of knowingly is as follows: A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist.

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Penal Code Section 42.072  STALKING

(a)  A person commits an offense if the person, on more than one occasion and pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct that is directed specifically at another person, knowingly engages in conduct that:

(1)  the actor knows or reasonably believes the other person will regard as threatening:

(A)  bodily injury or death for the other person;

(B)  bodily injury or death for a member of the other person’s family or household or for an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship; or

(C)  that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property;

(2)  causes the other person, a member of the other person’s family or household, or an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship to be placed in fear of bodily injury or death or fear that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property; and

(3)  would cause a reasonable person to fear:

(A)  bodily injury or death for himself or herself;

(B)  bodily injury or death for a member of the person’s family or household or for an individual with whom the person has a dating relationship; or

(C)  that an offense will be committed against the person’s property.

(b)  An offense under this section is a felony of the third degree, except that the offense is a felony of the second degree if the actor has previously been convicted of an offense under this section or of an offense under any of the following laws that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under this section:

(1)  the laws of another state;

(2)  the laws of a federally recognized Indian tribe;

(3)  the laws of a territory of the United States; or

(4)  federal law.

(c)  For purposes of this section, a trier of fact may find that different types of conduct described by Subsection (a), if engaged in on more than one occasion, constitute conduct that is engaged in pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct.

(d)  In this section, “dating relationship,” “family,” “household,” and “member of a household” have the meanings assigned by Chapter 71, Family Code.

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese
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