Colorado Criminal Domestic Violence Laws – Understanding the Crime of Stalking and Stalking Behavior
Warning: This webpage is taken from an article written for Colorado Judges – it includes a discussion of stalking and helps those charged with this complex Colorado crime understand what Judges consider to be Stalking Behavior
What is Stalking in Colorado – According to the Judges of Colorado
Stalking is the willful, repeated harassment of another person – often this involves intimate partners in a domestic violence relationship. The media frequently report incidents in which the stalker is a stranger to or co-worker of the victim, but a stalker can be any person whose behavior harasses another person.
Stalking behavior in a domestic relationship may arise from the abuser’s obsessive jealousy or possessiveness of the victim.
A jealous, possessive abuser may constantly monitor the victim¡|s activities during the relationship.
When the victim leaves or attempts to leave the relationship, the abuser may refuse to accept the end of the relationship and continue or escalate surveillance of the victim.
The abuser may subject the victim to ongoing harassment and pressure tactics, including multiple phone calls, homicide or suicide threats, uninvited visits at home or work, and manipulation of children.
Lethality of Stalking:
Abusers who stalk may be prepared to kill the victim rather than relinquish control over the victim’s life.
Thus, stalking behavior is a significant indicator of an abuser’s potential lethality, particularly if it escalates in severity or increases in frequency when the victim attempts to leave the relationship or seeks court intervention to end the abuse.
Prompt action to protect the victim is necessary when abusive behavior exhibits the foregoing (or any other) signs of potential lethality.
Types of Stalking in General
First: Simple Obsessional – parties are or were involved in an interpersonal relationship (domestic violence example);
Second: Love Obsessional – no relationship present;
Third: Erotmania – stalker believes she/she is in love with subject (movie star example).
Statistics on Stalking
Katrina Baum et. al., National Crime Victimization Survey: Stalking Victimization in the United States, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, January, 2009. available at, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svus.pdf
1. Statistics from DOJ Report:
a. 3.4 million people were victims of stalking in 12 month period.
b. Women have higher risk of being stalked:
i. 20 per 1,000 females.
ii. 7 per 1,000 males.
c. 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some way.
d. Highest rates of stalking: 18-19 years of age; and 20-24 years of age.
e. Stalking/Harassment is generally not reported (67% of women do not report; 79% of men do not report).
f. Only 7% sought victim services such as shelter/helpline (most enlist family/friends for help).
g. 9.4% Obtained Protection Order.
Types of Stalking Noted in Report:
Cyber stalking (email/blogs/internet/chat rooms).
Electronic Monitoring (computer spyware/video and digital cameras/listening devices/GPS).
Phone calls/Text Messages.
Stalking Law in Colorado C.R.S. 18-3-601. C.R.S. 18-3-602(7).
The general assembly found that stalking is a serious problem in this state and nationwide. The general assembly enacted the provisions of this statute to encourage and authorize effective intervention before stalking can escalate into behavior that has even more serious consequences.
A Peace Officer SHALL have a duty to respond as soon as reasonably possible to a report of stalking and to cooperate with the alleged victim in investigating such report.
Three Types of Stalking in Colorado
1. CREDIBLE THREAT WITH REPEATED FOLLOWING. A person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, such person knowingly:
(a) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship.
2. CREDIBLE THREAT WITH REPEATED COMMUNICATION. A person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, such person knowingly:
(b) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues.
3. SEVERE EMOTIONAL DISTRESS. A person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, such person knowingly:
(c) Repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress. For purposes of this paragraph (c), a victim need not show that he or she received professional treatment or counseling to show that he or she suffered serious emotional distress.
Related Definitions – C.R.S. 18-3-602(2).
1. Conduct In Connection With “a Credible Threat”
i. Acts that further, advance, promote, or have a continuity of purpose, and may occur before, during, or after the credible threat
2. Credible Threat
(a) A threat, physical action, or repeated conduct that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear for the person’s safety, or the safety of their immediate family, or someone with whom the person has or has had a continuing relationship with.
(b) The threat need not be directly expressed if the totality of the conduct would cause a reasonable person such fear.
3. Immediate Family
(c) The person’s spouse, and the person’s parents, grandparents, siblings or children.2)
4. Repeated or Repeatedly
(d) On more than one occasion (two or more).
C. Sentencing – C.R.S. 18-3-602(a).
A person who commits stalking:
Commits a class 5 felony for a first offense (if there was not ANY type of protection order or no contact bond condition in effect at the time); or
Commits a class 4 felony for a second or subsequent offense, if the offense occurs within seven years after the date of a prior offense for which the person was convicted.
Stalking is an Extraordinary Risk Crime subject to modification of presumptive range in the C.R.S.
If, at the time of the offense, there was a temporary or permanent protection order, injunction, or condition of bond, probation, or parole or any other court order in effect against the person, prohibiting the behavior described in this section, the person commits a class 4 felony.
In addition, when a violation under this section is committed in connection with a violation of a court order, including but not limited to any protection order or any order that sets forth the conditions of a bond, any sentence imposed for the violation pursuant to this subsection (5) shall run consecutively and not concurrently with any sentence imposed pursuant to section 18-6-803.5 and with any sentence imposed in a contempt proceeding for violation of the court order.
Court’s Awareness of Stalking Behavior C.R.S. 16-4-105. C.R.S. 16-4-105 (3). See C.R.S. 18-1-1001(5).
Bond Considerations. Courts should consider increased bond on Stalking cases.
(1)(j) Any facts indicating the possibility of violations of law if the defendant is released without restrictions.
(1)(k) Any facts indicating a likelihood that there will be an intimation or harassment of possible witnesses by the defendant.
Bond Conditions. Courts should consider bond conditions on Stalking cases such as:
Expanded Protection Orders under C.R.S. 18-1-1001 (3); and Electronic Monitoring/GPS.
Sentencing Considerations in Stalking Cases
Courts should consider sentences that deter stalking behavior.
Lengthy sentences to incarceration eliminate the stalkers direct access to the victim.
It is appropriate to make no contact provisions a condition of any sentence from probation to prison.
High court upholds Colorado’s Anti-Stalking Law
Karen Abbott, Rocky Mountain News
Published January 18, 2006
The Colorado Supreme Court upheld state efforts to crack down on stalking Tuesday, ruling that prosecutors need not prove that a stalker realized his behavior was distressing to his victim.
The state’s high court said Colorado legislators recognized that many stalkers believe, wrongly but sincerely, that their attention is welcome or will become welcome if they persist.
Some crimes require that a person have criminal intent in order to be convicted, but stalking is an exception, the Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling written by Justice Gregory Hobbs. The ruling upheld the constitutionality of Colorado’s anti-stalking law and overturned a Court of Appeals decision in March 2004.
The high court quoted from the state’s anti-stalking law, the current version of which was enacted in 1999.
It states: “A stalker will often maintain strong, unshakable, and irrational emotional feelings for his or her victim, and may likewise believe that the victim either returns these feelings of affection or will do so if the stalker is persistent enough. Further, the stalker often maintains this belief, despite a trivial or nonexistent basis for it and despite rejection, lack of reciprocation, efforts to restrict or avoid the stalker, and other facts that conflict with this belief.”
The case in question involved Brian Cross, now 46, who was convicted by a Mesa County jury in 2001 of stalking a woman who worked in a shopping center kiosk.
For two months in 2001, the defendant went to the shopping center almost daily and sat on nearby benches or circled the kiosk, the Colorado Court of Appeals said in its 2004 ruling.
“The victim felt threatened by defendant’s presence and reported his activities to the mall’s security personnel,” the court said. “She began using different doors to enter and leave the mall, had her husband drive her to and from work, and had her supervisor modify her work schedule so that she would not leave work alone.”
On one occasion, the defendant appeared at an evening church service that the victim and her family regularly attended.
Cross was arrested a few days later for violating parole in connection with a previous stalking conviction. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Law enforcement officials on Tuesday applauded the ruling.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Denver police Sgt. Matt Murray, who oversaw the department’s domestic violence unit for years.
“Domestic violence is a crime of control, and stalking is the ultimate control. I don’t even have to do a physical act . . . I can cause you immediate fear and get you to change your behavior from 2,000 miles away.”
In 2003, Denver police increased their enforcement of the stalking statute, examining the possibility of prosecution whenever someone violates a restraining order for the third time. Stalking is a class VI felony.
The results have been positive, Murray said.
“One of the great things about stalking is you can stop the behavior,” he said.
The outcome for Cross remains to be seen. The appeals court ordered a new trial on other legal grounds not related to whether he realized his conduct distressed his victim.