Under MCA § 45-5-220(1), a person commits the offense of stalking if the person purposely or knowingly causes another substantial emotional distress or reasonable apprehension of bodily injury or death by repeatedly:
- following the stalked person; or
- harassing, threatening, or intimidating the stalked person, in person or by mail, electronic communication or any other action, device or method.
The standard jury instructions for stalking crimes in Montana can be found in MCJI 5-118.
Attorney for Stalking Charges in Helena, Montana
If you were charged with stalking under MCA § 45-5-220, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Beebe Law Firm. Greg Beebe has offices in Helena, Montana, and represent clients throughout Lewis and Clark County and all of the surrounding counties. Call him to find out more about the charges, the elements of the offense, potential penalties, and important defenses to fight the charges.
Call 1 (406) 442-3625 today to discuss your case.
Stalking Crimes under MCA § 45-5-220
The most common examples of stalking can include:
- Making unwanted visits or sending unwanted messages (over the phone, computer, etc)
- Following another person
- Checking up on another person constantly
- Embarrassing the person in public or at their place of employment
- Refusing to leave when asked to do so.
Under MCA § 45-5-220, attempts by the accused person to contact or follow the stalked person after the accused has been given actual notice that the stalked person does not want to be contacted or followed constitutes prima facie evidence that the accused person purposely or knowingly followed, harassed, threatened or intimidated the stalked person.
To understanding the stalking charge, it is also important to consider the definition of “electronic communication” found in MCA § 45-8-213(4), and the definition of “substantial emotional distress”as found in defined in MCJI 5-118(b).
The term “serious bodily injury” is defined in MCJI 5-107(b) and MCA § 45-2-101(66).
Under the statutory scheme for stalking in Montana, the legislative intent and the common definition of “repeatedly” means only more than one instance of harassment, intimidation, or threat. See State v. McCarthy, 294 Mont. 270, 980 P.2d 629 (1999).
Elements of the Crime of Stalking
The crime of stalking under MCA § 45-5-220 requires proof of the following elements:
- That the Defendant caused the victim substantial emotional distress or reasonable apprehension of bodily injury; and
- That the Defendant caused the victim this substantial emotional distress or reasonable apprehension of bodily injury by:
- following the stalked person;
- harassing, threatening, or intimidating the stalked person in person or by mail, electronic communication, or any other action, device or method; and
The standard jury instruction for stalking in Montana can be found at MCJI 5-118(a).
The term "substantial emotional distress" is defined as extreme pain, either of body or mind, and is synonymous with agony, distress, or torment. Also, the term “harass" is defined as “to annoy repeatedly.” The definition of “intimidate” as used in the stalking statute is defined as “to make timid; to frighten.”
Penalties for Stalking in Montana
The Montana Statute prohibiting stalking provides, in part:
"For the first offense, a person convicted of stalking shall be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 1 year or fined an amount not to exceed $1,000, or both.
For a second or subsequent offense or for a first offense against a victim who was under the protection of a restraining order directed at the offender, the offender shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term not to exceed 5 years or fined an amount not to exceed $10,000, or both.
A person convicted of stalking may be sentenced to pay all medical, counseling, and other costs incurred by or on behalf of the victim as a result of the offense."
Also, the victim of stalking can petition the court for a protective order by presenting credible evidence of stalking, as explained in Title 40, chapter 15, for restraining a person from engaging in stalking.
For the purpose of determining the number of convictions, the term "conviction" includes:
- a conviction as defined in 45-2-101, MCA, in this state;
- a conviction for a violation of a statute similar to this section in another state; or
- a forfeiture of bail or collateral deposited to secure the defendant's appearance in court in this state or another state for violation of a statute similar to this section, which forfeiture has not been vacated.
Attempts by the accused person to contact or follow the stalked person, after the accused person has been given actual notice that the stalked person does not want to be contacted or followed, constitutes "prima facie evidence" that the accused person purposely and knowingly followed, harassed, threatened or intimidated the stalked person.
MCA Section 45-5-220 for Stalking - Visit the website of the Montana Legislature to find the complete statutory language for the crime of misdemeanor and felony stalking and the criminal penalties that apply after a first or second conviction.
Stalking and Harassment Laws in Montana - Visit the website of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to learn more about crimes involving stalking and harassment when an abusive partner or ex-partner inappropriately demands the victim’s time even when the victim makes it clear that they do not want that person to contact them.