Stalking is a crime taken very seriously by the state of Illinois. In some cases, stalking can occur by someone who doesn’t know the victim – but in other cases that victim may be a former spouse or partner. In these instances, the crime goes beyond stalking into a crime of domestic violence.
Here’s what you need to know about stalking laws in Illinois and how the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator can influence the charges in the case.
What Is Stalking in Illinois?
Stalking is a crime that occurs when someone knowingly acts in ways that put another person in fear of their safety or the safety of their friends and family – or ways that put them in great emotional distress. This could include an act such as surveilling someone and threatening them, which puts them in reasonable fear of their safety.
Common actions associated with stalking include:
- Following someone
- Repeatedly harassing or threatening them through various means such as phone calls or text messages
- Showing up uninvited at someone’s place of employment or home
- Vandalizing the property of the victim
Really, any activity that places a person in fear of their safety can be considered stalking.
Aggravated stalking can also be charged. This occurs when someone stalks another person and then takes actions that cause bodily harm to the victim. It counts if they restrain or confine the victim. Violating a court order or injunction against doing these things is also an aggravating factor in stalking cases.
Penalties for Stalking
Stalking is a felony in Illinois, a Class 4 felony to be specific. That means that if someone is found guilty of the crime of stalking, then they can face up to three years in prison and be made to pay fines of as much as $25,000. Any subsequent stalking convictions are Class 3 felonies and can be punished by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
If someone is found guilty of aggravated stalking, then it’s a Class 3 felony, even as a first offense with the same penalties outlined above.
When Is Stalking Considered Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence crimes are crimes that occur between people who are family or household members. If two people who are married or have previously been married or share a child have an altercation, then it can be considered a crime of domestic violence. This may add enhanced penalties. The same is true for stalking.
If the people involved in the stalking or harassment are related in some way, either through blood or marriage, then the case can be made that it is an act of domestic violence under the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986. Under Illinois law, behaviors associated with stalking can be considered abuse. Victims can seek restraining or protective orders that, if violated, can lead to aggravated stalking penalties.
Defenses to Stalking Charges
If you are accused of stalking or aggravated stalking, you are entitled under the law to defend yourself in court. An attorney can help you formulate the best defense for your particular case, but, in general, the defenses used commonly for stalking include:
- Lack of intent – If you did not mean to cause harm, then that is a defense, in some cases.
- Mistake – If you weren’t stalking but are simply a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that argument can be made.
- Coercion – If someone forced you or persuaded you to take the actions you did, then that can be a defense.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by Avvo (2013 and 2018), SuperLawyers (2015-2020), The National Trial Lawyers, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.