On July 1, 2017 the Legislature passed Public Act 17-31 (effective October 1, 2017) which had some significant changes for domestic violence laws in Connecticut. The most interesting was the modification to the stalking statute to significantly relax the threshold for a criminal prosecution and at the same time expand the means by which stalking crimes could occur to include stalking by electronic communication and social media such as facebook, instagram, etc.
The old Stalking Statute – Under the old Connecticut stalking statutes in order to be found guilty of stalking you must have taken some overt conduct consisting or two or more acts, by which the actor either directly or through a 3rd person, “follows, lies in wait for, monitors, observes, surviels. threatens, harasses, communicates with or sends unwanted gifts to” the victim. Also the the actor must have knowingly engaged in such conduct directed at the victim that would “cause a reasonable person to fear for such person’s physical safety.’
The new Stalking Statute
The two main changes in the new stalking law that social media fans need to take into account are the following.
Under the new law you can stalk someone solely by using electronic or social media. This means text messages, twitter, instagram, facebook, etc, Under the law two or more posts on social media could constitute stalking behavior.
The second big change is the subjective impact of the actor’s behavior upon the victim. Under the old statute the law limited the statute to include conduct that would have made a “reasonable person” fear for their physical safety which to me seemed like a fairly reasonable standard. However the problem was that there were many cases in which alleged stalking victims were making stalking complaints to the Police who were then unable to take any action because the stalkers behavior (although possibly irritating to the victim) did not rise to the level of conduct that would have made a “reasonable person” fear for their physical safety.
For example, a man tries to get a woman to date him and sends her flowers and love letters. Although this may be very annoying to the woman, this behavior is probably not enough too make a reasonable person fear for their physical safety.
How the New Statute Works
By lowering the bar on the level of fear that the victim needs to feel in order for the conduct to be considered criminal the Legislature is intentionally expanding the scope of the stalking statute. Now it is no longer required to have engaged in conduct that would have placed a “reasonable person” in fear of their “physical safety.” The new law lowers the threshold to include conduct which would have caused a “reasonable person” to suffer “emotional distress.”
This obviously casts a much wider net for the stalking statute and is going to lead to a lot more stalking arrests going forward as no longer is there a requirement that your conduct would have placed a “reasonable person” in fear of their “physical safety.” Now the statute is less concerned with physical safety and has expanded to criminalize situations where you have “upset” the victim and they have suffered emotional distress. This is a big shift.
Expansion into Electronic Communication and Social Media
For the first time the new stalking statute includes electronic communication and posting on social media as conduct which is covered by the law. No longer is this a statute aimed at people waiting outside some victim’s house late at night making them feel “unsafe.” Starting October 1, 2017 we are going to start to see arrests for people who are going on social media and engaging in cyber stalking behaviors. According to recent statistics the incidence of cyber stalking has over taken traditional stalking behaviors. Apparently cyber stalking is a huge problem for youths in our schools as well as social media has proliferated.
The new law is going to expose a lot of people to arrests for stalking in Connecticut. I can imagine a lot of people who have broken up and terminated a dating relationship who may be tempted to get in the last word by posting some “dirt” on the other’s social media accounts. Under our new stalking statute this kind of conduct can result in your arrest. The standards for the crime of stalking have been lowered and they have expanded the law to cover cyber stalking in Connecticut.
If you have been arrested for stalking or any domestic violence case in Stamford, Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Bridgeport, Fairfield, Westport, Wilton ,Weston of anywhere throughout Fairfield County feel free to call us today for a free consultation at 203.357.5555 24/7. We offer reasonable flat rate fess and payment plans. I have 30 years of experience defending domestic violence cases. Call today for your free consultation