Stalking is a serious crime in Colorado. Whether the stalking occurs before, during, or after divorce proceedings, victims and potential victims need protection from the torment stalking can cause. While imperfect, Colorado law provides tools that can help shield spouses and their children from stalking and other abusive behavior.
The decline and end of a marriage can be a volatile time. Intense and negative emotions can manifest themselves in any number of ways. Petty insults or cruel words may be the extent of it, but sometimes, anger, jealousy, or feelings of betrayal can lead one spouse to engage in dangerous or threating behavior. In extreme cases, this can take the form of domestic violence or other harm caused to the other spouse or children. But even if there is no physical violence, an out of control spouse can cause fear and emotional distress by stalking their spouse, children, or other relatives.
What the law for Stalking in Colorado Springs?
Known as “Vonnie’s Law,” Colorado’s anti-stalking statute was passed because, as the legislature noted at the time, it “recognizes the seriousness posed by stalking and adopts the [anti-stalking law] with the goal of encouraging and authorizing effective intervention before stalking can escalate into behavior that has even more serious consequences.”
There are three key components of stalking under Colorado law. The accused must engage in:
- Repeated contact or communication
- That involves a credible threat and/or
- Causes the victim severe emotional distress
Specifically, Colorado Revised Statutes section 18-3-602 (1), C.R.S. provides that a person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, the person knowingly:
- Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship; or
- Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with the threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues; or
- Repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress.
Note that the conduct must be “repeated” in order for it to constitute stalking. This simply means more than one act or incident. If the stalking included a threat, it must be “credible.” This means that the threat, combined with physical action, communication, or repeated conduct “would cause a reasonable person to be in fear for the person's safety or the safety of his or her immediate family or of someone with whom the person has or has had a continuing relationship.”
Even without a credible threat, however, if the repeated conduct or communication “would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress” and they do in fact suffer such distress, the conduct or communication alone can be the basis of a stalking charge.
Obtaining an Order of Protection
If you have yet to file for divorce and believe your spouse is stalking you, your children, or a close relative, you can petition a court to issue a temporary or permanent civil protection order. Commonly called restraining orders in Colorado Springs, the protection order would prohibit your spouse from certain conduct, contact, or communication with you and other specified individuals. You can obtain an order of protection from stalking even if you haven’t reported the conduct to the police or your spouse has not been charged with or convicted of stalking. A judge will issue the order if he or she finds that an imminent danger exists to the person or persons seeking protection.
If you have already filed for divorce and your case is pending, you can file a petition for an order of protection before the same judge who is presiding over your divorce. This allows the judge to take the abuser’s actions into consideration for matters beyond simply issuing a protective order, such as custody, visitation, child support, and property division. Any violation of the court’s order can result in fines and jail time and further impact the abuser’s rights in your divorce case.
Orders of protection can be a powerful deterrent against stalking, harassment, and domestic abuse. But stalking victims should also not hesitate to contact the police if they believe that their spouse is engaging in stalking or other threatening behavior. A divorce is already stressful enough. Let a divorce lawyer in Colorado Springs guide you on your best options to protect yourself, your loved ones and your children.