Life can be a continual series of balancing acts, in which behaviors that are acceptable up to a point can become unacceptable once that point is passed. When an interest in someone else becomes a fascination, then goes further into an obsession that can lead the object of the attention to feel threatened. This is the subject of multiple Kentucky statutes.
Stalking is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the nature of the stalking activities as well as additional circumstances (the existence of a protective order, or that the behavior includes the use of a deadly weapon).
In this state, “stalking” is defined as a course of conduct directed at a specific individual that would cause a reasonable person in his or her situation to suffer substantial mental distress. Note that the law requires a person to cross multiple thresholds before the activities qualify as stalking behaviors:
- The behavior must be intentional.
- The communication, express or implied, must include a threat of unwanted sexual contact, physical injury or death.
- The “course of conduct” requires at least two acts demonstrating a continuity of purpose.
- Constitutionally protected activities do not qualify as acts that would constitute the course of conduct. In other words, expressing of opinions or otherwise engaging in speech or activities that do not threaten the other person and which are protected as, for example, freedom of expression cannot justify a claim of stalking.
- The person’s sense of being threatened must be reasonable. That is, a hypersensitive person’s sense of being threatened may not trigger a legally supportable stalking prosecution, nor can an accusation of stalking be used “offensively” against another person.
Anyone accused of stalking behavior who in fact did not intend to do so has multiple avenues open to challenge any criminal charge of stalking; even someone whose behavior meets the minimum threshold can still offer a defense to reduce the possible penalty to a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The difference between acquittal and conviction, or a felony as opposed to a lesser offense, can depend heavily on the selection of defense counsel experienced with criminal defense cases.