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ARS 13-2923 Arizona’s Stalking Law

Posted on December 7, 2021 in

Generally stalking can be defined as actions or conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable individual to experience varying degrees of fear. In a recently conducted study by The U.S. Department of Justice, stalking victims were classified if they responded to any of the following behaviors:

  • Receiving multiple unsolicited texts and emails
  • Receiving multiple unwanted phone calls
  • Being followed and/or spied on
  • Being confronted for illegitimate reasons
  • Waiting at locations for the victim
  • Being left unwanted gifts or items
  • The spreading of misinformation about the victim via the internet or otherwise

Collectively any of these actions may warrant a stalking charge, depending on whether or not the victim proved to feel threatened or reasonable fear as a result. All fifty states have criminalized stalking in some form or fashion, although specific elements of the crime may differ.

Man stalking woman in house.

Arizona Stalking Resources

Arizona’s Stalking Law Defined

According to The Arizona State Legislature A.R.S. § 13-2923, a person commits stalking when their course of conduct directed towards another knowingly or intentionally causes the stalking victim to:

  1. Suffer emotional distress or reasonable fear that either:
    • The victim’s property will be damaged or destroyed
    • Any of the following will be physically injured: the victim, the victim’s family member, the victim’s domestic animal, a person in a romantic relationship with the victim, or any individual residing in the victim’s household in the past 6 months

Arizona’s stalking law also outlines the specific “course of conduct” that would result in a violation:

  1. Directly or indirectly partaking in any of the following actions, in person or otherwise:
    • Maintain visual or physical proximity to a specific person or direct verbal, written or other threats, whether express or implied, to a specific person on two or more occasions over a period of time, however short
    • Use any electronic, digital or global positioning system device to surveil a specific person or a specific person’s internet or wireless activity continuously for twelve hours or more or on two or more occasions over a period of time, however short, without authorization.
    • Communicate, or cause to be communicated, on more than one occasion words, images or language by or through the use of electronic mail or an electronic communication that is directed at a specific person without authorization and without a legitimate purpose.

Notably this does not include constitutionally protected activity or other activity authorized by law, the other person, the other person’s authorized representative or if the other person is a minor, the minor’s parent or guardian.

Stalking Punishments and Penalties

Class 3 felony stalking, as defined by A.R.S. § 13-702, carries a minimum sentence of 2.5 years and a maximum sentence of 7 years. This is the most serious felony stalking charge under Arizona law. This level of felony stalking charge is characterized by the victim’s ability to prove reasonable fear of death, due to the defendant’s alleged actions. Some other examples of class 3 felonies in Arizona include:

  • Illegally discharging a firearm directed at a non-residential building
  • Aggravated assault
  • Robbery

Class 5 felony stalking includes a minimum sentence of 9 months and a maximum of 2.5 years. Contrarily, the victim has to be able to prove that the accused inflicted reasonable fear or emotional distress within the stalking charge. It is noteworthy that proving the victim experienced reasonable fear of death in some way or another is what differentiates the severity of an Arizona felony stalking allegation. Some example of Arizona’s other class 5 felony crimes include:

  • Credit card theft
  • Aggravated assault of a police officer
  • Unlawful flight from law enforcement

Common Defenses to Arizona Stalking Charges

The key behind an Arizona felony stalking charge is proving intentional actions of the defendant that results in reasonable distress or fear from a victim. An informed Phoenix criminal defense attorney can craft a legal strategy that proves a stalking allegation false by proving the victim’s fear was unwarranted or the accused stalker didn’t inflict fear intentionally. Here are some of the common ways this can be accomplished.

Lack of a Credible Threat

Within any criminal defense case the burden is on the prosecutor to prove that beyond reasonable doubt that the victim’s fear or emotional distress was a reasonable reaction to the defendant’s actions. If the defendant can prove a fear to have been irrational, this severity of the resulting stalking charge can appear more ambiguous.

Lack of Intentional Act

An important aspect of A.R.S. § 13-2923 is that the defendant’s “conduct directed towards another knowingly or intentionally” causes a reasonable reaction of fear or distress from a victim. Unfortunately, this can merely be the result of poor timing or bad circumstances. For example, the defendant accidentally butt-dials the victim and presents themselves in an unintended manner that is interpreted by the victim in a way that inflicts a negative response.

Proving Constitutional Protected Activity

Proving the defendant was engaging in constitutionally protected activity, such as the right to petition, decriminalizes any stalking charge due to the authorization of these actions at a federal level. For instance, organizing or protesting in a peaceful manner cannot result in a felony stalking charge if proved to be true.

Learn to recognize cyberstalking, cyber-harassment, cyber-spying, and cyberbullying early on. “Cyber” refers to the use of computers to stalk, harass, or spy on someone. When the internet, or some electronic means, is used to stalk or harass a person, then it is known as cyberstalking. cyber-harassment involves using email, instant messaging, blogs, and the like, to torment and harass someone — the torment is very real to the victim of this electronic activity. In Arizona, cyberstalking is criminal harassment. Here is an excerpt of Arizona’s anti-harassment statute, A.R.S. § 13-2921:

“A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass or with knowledge that the person is harassing another person, the person:

“1. Anonymously or otherwise communicates or causes a communication with another person by verbal, electronic, mechanical, telegraphic, telephonic or written means in a manner that harasses…”

Person stealing info from someone's computer.

ARS 13-3005 Spying on Another’s Computer

Spying is espionage, or clandestine surveillance. Spying involves obtaining information secretively, without permission from the person who holds that information. Cyber-spying involves using computer technology and electronic devices to secretly obtain that intelligence. The wrongful, intentional, and deliberate eavesdropping on other people who are communicating between themselves is a crime. Such deliberate interception of oral or electronic communications can result in felony charges under A.R.S. § 13-3005.

In Arizona, eavesdropping on an electronic communication includes a transfer of data or intelligence by computer or telephone. A person may commit a crime by intentionally eavesdropping on another’s communication, even if one of the parties to the conversation is a spouse. When someone eavesdrops on an oral or electronic communication, without consent, then this act of listening-in is spying.

The felony act of communication interception — spying — is perpetrated by intentionally intercepting another’s communication without consent, either by electronic means or by the use of some other person to accomplish the same end. A felony may also be committed by tricking, or conniving, a communication service provider into disclosing the content of another’s electronic communication. Even the possession of a device that could be used to intercept an electronic or oral communication, with the intent to use it, may be a criminal act.

No matter how innocent a party’s motivation is in attempting to acquire evidence for a family law case — spying or cyber-spying on the other party’s private communications, without their knowledge or consent, is a bad idea. If you’re in a divorce, do not spy on opposing party’s computer or email, doing so can seriously undermine your case, or result in your being charged with a crime. If you feel that the opposing party may have access to your computer passwords, social media accounts, or email, then immediately change your passwords and open a new email account.

Person using keyboard to cyberbully online.

ARS 8-309 Cyberbullying by Juveniles

We hear more and more about online bullying of children by other children. Many states have enacted specific cyberbullying laws to prohibit this type of harassment between minors. Arizona has an anti-cyberbullying statute that, when violated, can result in punishment of a petty offense or even a class 2 misdemeanor. Here’s an excerpt of A.R.S. § 8-309:

“A. It is unlawful for a juvenile to intentionally or knowingly use an electronic communication device to transmit or display a visual depiction of a minor that depicts explicit sexual material.

“B. It is unlawful for a juvenile to intentionally or knowingly possess a visual depiction of a minor that depicts explicit sexual material and that was transmitted to the juvenile through the use of an electronic communication device.

“C. It is not a violation of subsection B of this section if all of the following apply:

“1. The juvenile did not solicit the visual depiction.

“2. The juvenile took reasonable steps to destroy or eliminate the visual depiction or report the visual depiction to the juvenile’s parent, guardian, school official or law enforcement…”

Not every state has an anti-cyberbullying statute like Arizona. States may apply their existing laws, however, to prohibit this form of electronic and online activity to protect children from being threatened, harassed, and bullied by other juveniles. If you believe that your child is being cyber bullied, then immediately contact your local police or county sheriff and report the incident.