In Illinois, you commit stalking when you knowingly engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and you knew, or should have known, that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for their or a third person’s safety or cause them to suffer other emotional distress.

Stalking also means that you knowingly and without legal justification followed another person or placed that person under surveillance at least twice, and you threatened or caused the person to reasonably fear a threat of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement or restraint. The threat must be directed at that person or their family member.

A course of conduct means two or more acts, “including but not limited to acts in which a defendant directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about, a person, engages in other non-consensual contact, or interferes with or damages a person’s property or pet. A course of conduct may include contact via electronic communications.” (See: 720 ILCS 5/12-7.3).

In People v. Ashley, the Illinois Supreme Court defined the term “threatens” to mean “true threats” of unlawful violence such as bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement and restraint. The court rejected the argument that the law was unconstitutional, finding the term “threatens” was not overly broad and thus did not infringe free speech.

Stalking is a Class 4 felony, but a later offense is a Class 3 felony.

If you are charged with stalking or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not try to talk yourself out of your situation. What seems like a reasonable explanation to you might instead give the state the evidence needed to convict you. An experienced attorney can instead review your case for your most favorable defense. Can the state prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt? Did you know the victim was in the area? Were the statements you made actually threats? Is the victim’s fear of harm reasonable?

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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