Michigan Stalking Laws: Everything You Need to Know
Statistics show that 1 in every 12 women will be victims of stalking in their lifetime, compared to one in every 45 men, with 1.4 million people being stalked in America every year.
Stalking can have a tremendous psychological impact on the victims, and it has been known to cause anxiety, depression, and insomnia to those affected.
Surprisingly most stalkers are known by their victims, with most of them being former romantic partners. If you or a person close to you is a victim of stalking, it would be best to seek help from the police.
With that said, not all people accused of stalking are guilty of the crime. It’s not uncommon for a person to accuse another of stalking to get back at them, for whatever reason.
If you face stalking charges in Michigan, you will need to hire a skilled stalking attorney to help fight your charges.
Michigan Stalking Laws
Under Michigan law, stalking is classified into three categories: stalking, aggravated stalking, and cyberstalking.
Under MCL 750.411h, stalking is defined as a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another person that would cause feelings of fear, terror, and/or intimidation to the alleged victim.
As used in section 750.411h, harassment refers to conduct aimed at another person, including, but is not limited to, continuing or repeated unpermitted contact with the victim that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.
However, if the activity causing the distress to the subject is a constitutionally protected activity or conduct serving a legitimate purpose, the activity cannot be classified as harassment.
Course of Conduct
Course of conduct, as used in this section, means conduct directed towards one or a combination of separate noncontinuous acts evidencing continuity of purpose.
As per this section, emotional distress means significant mental suffering that doesn’t necessarily require professional treatment.
As used in MCL section 750.411h, unconsented contact refers to any contact with another person initiated or continued without the person’s consent or in disregard of the affected individual’s expressed desire to discontinue contact.
Under this section, behaviors that may be defined as unconsented contact with the victim include, but are not limited to:
- Following or being within sight of the other person
- Approaching and confronting the complainant in a public or private property
- Appearing at the individual’s workplace or residence
- Accessing or remaining on property owned, occupied, or leased by the complainant
- Contacting the complainant via telephone
- Sending mail or electronic communications to the complainant
- Placing or delivering an object to property owned, leased, or occupied by the person
Penalties for Stalking in Michigan
Under Michigan law, an individual who violates MCL section 750.411h will be guilty of a misdemeanor or a felony. However, the criminal penalties may vary widely depending on the complainant’s age.
For example, if the violation involves an adult, the offender will be guilty of a misdemeanor attracting penalties of not more than a one-year prison term, a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both.
If the complainant is below 18 and the accused person is five or more years older than the victim, the offender will be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of five years, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
The court may sometimes choose to place a person convicted of violating this section of the law under probation for a term not exceeding five years. In such a case, the court may impose a set of probation conditions, including:
- Refraining from stalking the complainant during the probation period
- Refraining from contacting the complainant in any way during the probation period
- Being subjected to an evaluation to determine if the individual needs psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling. If it’s determined that the individual needs any of these types of counseling, the court can direct the individual to receive appropriate counseling at his or her own expense.
2. Aggravated Stalking
A person who engages in stalking can be charged with aggravated stalking if any of the following circumstances exist.
- At least one of the accused’s actions violated a restraining order where the defendant has received actual notice of the restraining order or if they were in violation of a court’s injunction
- One of the actions constituting the offense violated probation, parole, pretrial, or a release on bond, pending trial conditions
- The stalking offense in question involves communicating credible threats to the alleged complainant, a member of the complainant’s family, or someone who lives in the same household as the complainant
- The accused has had a prior conviction with an offense under MCL section 750.411h
As used under this section of the law, a credible threat refers to a threat to kill or inflict physical injury on another reasonable individual.
Penalties for Aggravated Stalking
Aggravated stalking is a felony offense under Michigan law.
Upon conviction, the offender will be looking at a penalty of a maximum of five years in prison, a fine not exceeding $10.000, or both.
However, if the victim is less than 18 years and the offender is more than five years older than the victim, the offender will be looking at a maximum of 10 years in prison, a fine not exceeding $15,000, or both.
The court may also choose to place an offender under probation of any time, but not less than five years. If the court orders a term of probation, it may also set some conditions for the probation, such as:
- Refraining from stalking the complainant during the probation time
- Refraining from any contact with the complainant
- Undergoing an evaluation, i.e. a mental evaluation
- If found fit by the court, the individual may also have to undergo psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling at his or her own expense
Sometimes the penalties may be even stiffer if, in a prosecution for stalking and aggravated stalking charges, there’s evidence showing that the accused continued to engage in a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of the complainant.
This is perhaps because the law presumes that the defendant’s actions caused the alleged victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested because the complainant had made them aware of their desire to discontinue the unwanted contact.
In such cases, the court may impose a criminal penalty provided in this section on top of any penalty applicable for another criminal offense arising from the same conduct or contempt of court arising from the same conduct.
Cyberstalking is a relatively new stalking offense that involves using any internet-based communication medium to initiate or continue unwanted contact with another person.
Under MCL 750.411s, it’s a criminal offense for any person to post a message to another person through any communication medium, including the internet, a computer, computer program, computer network, or computer system without the other person’s consent, if any of the following apply:
- The person knows or is reasonably expected to know that posting the message would result in continuing unconsented contact with the person
- The intention of the defendant while posting the message is to make the complainant feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested
- Conduct composed from the posting would cause a reasonable person to experience feelings of fear, terror, harassment, or intimidation
- Conduct arising from posting the message caused the alleged complainant to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested
Penalties for Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking is a felony offense punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both.
If one of the following circumstances exists during the commission of the offense, the offender will be looking at serving prison time for not more than five years, a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both.
These aggravating factors include:
- Posting the message violates a restraining order or a court injunction
- Posting the message violates probation, bail, pretrial release, or release on bond, pending appeal conditions
- Posting the message communicated a credible threat to the victim, the victim’s family, or a person living in the complainant’s household
- The offender had been previously convicted of the same conduct or related offenses in any state in America
- The complainant is less than 18, while the offender is five or more years older than them
Also, the court can order an offender to reimburse the state the expenses incurred by the commission of the crime.
This section of the law does not prohibit the prosecution from pursuing other charges for any other criminal offense committed by the defendant as they violated or attempted to violate this section.
Let the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Nicole Blank Becker Help You with Your Case Today
Facing stalking charges can be a stressful experience, and you could make a mistake that could cost you a lot amid the stress.
Therefore, you will need to have a skilled criminal defense attorney if you are facing stalking-related charges, and not just any attorney. Stressful situations call for working with a lawyer that focuses on building a solid attorney-client relationship and gives their client the listening ear they need.
If you find yourself being investigated and/or charged with any of the above crimes, the attorney to contact is Nicole Blank Becker of Blank Law, PC.
Nicole has more than two decades of experience in Michigan criminal law, with an outstanding record of getting favorable outcomes for her clients.
Besides being a defense attorney, Nicole was the Cheif of the Sex Unit as a prosecutor in Macomb County, meaning she has the experience to look at a case from all angles and build a solid defense for you.
To get Nicole Blank Becker for your case, contact Blank Law, PC at (248) 515-6583 or fill out this online form to book your first free consultation and get the representation you deserve.