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Domestic violence in Massachusetts takes many forms and one of the more sinister manifestations is stalking. Like verbal abuse, it is often a category that is misunderstood and not always immediately recognized.

A look at the legal definition of stalking and its penalties may clarify the matter to some degree.

The legal definition of stalking in Massachusetts

Section 43 of the General Laws of the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts covers specific aspects of stalking. The definition starts with defining a stalker as someone who “willfully and maliciously engages in” conduct that seriously alarms or annoys another person. The annoyance level must rise to the threshold of causing a “reasonable person” to suffer emotional distress. A threat that has the intent of placing a person in fear of imminent bodily injury or death must also be a part of the actions of the stalker. These threats can take the form of mail, email or just about any form of communication that could convey a threat to another person.

The penalty for stalking

Section 43 of the General Court also expresses the penalties for a stalking offense. It begins by stating that conviction of stalking carries a penalty of not greater than five years imprisonment in a state prison or by a fine of no more than $1,000. Penalties may vary based on extenuating circumstances, such as the presence of a restraining order. In this case, the offender must serve a minimum of not less than one year and again not more than five years. A second offense for stalking carries a deeper penalty, of not less than two years of imprisonment and not more than ten years.