Anti-Stalking Bill Advances In State Legislature
Wyoming’s House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would sharpen anti-stalking laws.
House Bill 8 raises the maximum penalty for misdemeanor stalking from six months to one year, with up to three years of probation. The maximum penalty for felony stalking is 10 years under existing state law.
State representatives amended the bill to define stalking as an action that would cause, “a reasonable person to suffer substantial fear." Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault public policy director Tara Muir said these amendments missed the point.
“Our concern is, adding substantial means victims have to be so scared that we’re never going to nip the stalking in the bud. And we know with stalkers, sometimes they can be pretty lethal, and it can lead to homicide,” Muir said.
The legislation now has to clear the Senate with a two-thirds vote in order to become law. And even if the Senate doesn’t throw out the word “substantial," Muir said the bill will help victims by making it easier to bring cases to court, and by treating stalking offenses more seriously. The bill would also make it possible to prosecute stalking offenses across state and county lines. Muir said that is how stalking often happens.
“Someone moves outside of your county, someone even moves outside of the state, but they’re doing Facebook posts, they’re sending or calling from outside of the state,” Muir said. “What this bill is very clear on is if the harm happens inside our state, then our prosecutors and our judges have jurisdiction over it.”
To become law, the legislation will need to pass the Senate with a two-thirds vote. Muir is also paying close attention to two other bills that are currently in the Senate. One would make strangulation a felony and heighten penalties for domestic assault and battery. The other bill relates to orders of protection, which victims can obtain from a court as a layer of legal protection against stalking or domestic abuse.