Maryland Stalking Laws
Below is a brief overview of the statutory scheme surrounding stalking and harassment in Maryland. If you have been charged with stalking, harassment, or a similar crime, please contact a Maryland stalking lawyer today or learn more about how a lawyer may assist you.
Stalking Section 3-802
In the state of Maryland, laws against stalking focus not on any one act, but on a “course of conduct” that as a whole leaves the victim in fear of being harmed in a number of ways. Specifically, a “course of conduct” is defined as a persistent pattern of conduct, occurring through a series of acts over time, that indicates a consistent and continuous purpose. Section 3-801.
It violates Maryland stalking laws (Section 3-802(c)) for an individual (1) to undertake a pernicious or evil-minded course of conduct (2) that includes pursuing and/or approaching the victim (3) where the perpetrator’s goal is to place, or the perpetrator knows or should have reasonably known the conduct would place, (4) the victim in reasonable fear of any of the following (see Section 3-802(a)):
- Fear of serious bodily injury
- Fear of assault (whether assault in the first or second degree)
- Fear of rape, any sexual offense, attempted rape, or any attempted sexual offense (this includes any nonconsensual sexual act or sexual contact as defined in Section 3-301)
- Fear of being imprisoned without legal authority (also known as false imprisonment)
- Fear of death
- Fear that a third person may suffer any of the acts listed above
These stalking laws explicitly state that they do not apply to conduct that is performed to ensure a person’s compliance with a court order or performed to accomplish a specific lawful commercial purpose, or to conduct that is protected, authorized, or required by local, state, or federal law. Section 3-802(b).
If a person is guilty of stalking, then the individual faces conviction of a misdemeanor with up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $5,000 or less. Section 3-802(d).
The sentence for an individual convicted of stalking may be either separate from and consecutive to, or concurrent with, sentences for any other crimes arising from the same acts that violate this section. Section 3-802(e). This is particularly significant for a crime like stalking because a stalking offense necessarily requires an individual to commit a series of acts over time. Thus, if any of the acts that constitute part of the individual’s course of conduct are criminal, there is a heightened risk of the perpetrator facing multiple charges and serving multiple sentences (e.g., stalking and harassment).
Harassment Section 3-803
A person violates Section 3-803 and is guilty of harassment if the individual (1) engages in a malicious course of conduct (similar to stalking, see above) or commits a single act of following the victim around a public place (2) in such a manner that the victim becomes alarmed or seriously annoyed, (3) and the individual does so:
- After being given a reasonable request or warning to stop by the victim or by another person on behalf of the victim
- With the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm the victim, and
- Without a legal purpose for the conduct.
It should be noted that this section on harassment does not apply to conduct part of a peaceable activity with the purpose of expressing political views or with the purpose of providing information to others. Section 3-803(b).
An individual guilty of harassment faces a conviction of a misdemeanor with penalties of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500. Section 3-803(c)(1).
If an individual has at least one prior conviction for harassment, then an individual guilty of violating this section faces up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Section 3-803(c)(2).
Misuse of Telephone Facilities and Equipment Section 3-804
By the name of the law, misuse of telephone facilities and equipment may not seem relevant to stalking and harassment legislation. Yet, the content of this section is aimed at prohibiting people from over-the-phone stalking and harassment. It is illegal under this section (Section 3-804(a)) for an individual to use telephones or cellular phones to:
- Make an (i) obscene, indecent, filthy, or lewd (ii) comment, proposal, suggestion, or request. Section 3-804(a)(3).
- Make a phone call (i) anonymously (ii) the content of which would be reasonably expected to harass, embarrass, torment, distress, or annoy the person being called. Section 3-804(a)(1).
- Make calls (i) repeatedly (ii) with the intent to annoy, torment, harass, distress, or embarrass the person being called. Section 3-804(a)(2).
This crime is a misdemeanor, and a person who is guilty of this offense faces up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500. Section 3-804(b).
Misuse of Electronic Communication Section 3-805
Like the section described above, this law is designed to prohibit harassment perpetuated through electronic communication (which would include internet communication and even texting). Electronic communication is defined in Section 3-805(a) as any transmission of data, information, or a communication through the use of electronic means (such as computers) that is sent to and received by a person.
It is illegal for any individual to (1) undertake a course of conduct (2) that is malicious (evil-minded, pernicious, with evil intent) (3) by means of electronic communication (4) that caused the victim to be alarmed and/or seriously annoyed (5) and the individual does this (see Section 3-805(b)):
- Intending to annoy, alarm, or harass the recipient of the electronic communication
- After being reasonably warned or requested to stop by the recipient or by another person on behalf of the recipient and
- Without a legal purpose
Like the harassment law (Section 3-805(d)), this section does not apply to persons acting as part of a peaceable activity intended to express a political view or to provide information to others.
This crime is a misdemeanor, and any individual guilty of misuse of electronic miscommunication faces up to one year in jail and/or a fine of $500 or less. Section 3-805(e).
How a Maryland Stalking Lawyer Can Help
In Maryland, there are several offenses that are similar to the common understanding of the word “stalking,” including stalking, harassment, and misuse of telephones or electronic communication.