Loretta Sanchez to Cyberstalkers: Beware!

Loretta Sanchez to Cyberstalkers: Beware!

Concerned that old laws designed to protect stalking victims don't adequately cover cyberstalking, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim) has introduced the Stalkers Act that increases the power of federal prosecutors to build related criminal cases in the digital age.

"Cyberstalkers may use . . . technologies such as global positioning systems or hidden cameras to track their victim's activities--sometimes across state lines," Sanchez wrote in a press statement. "Unbelievably, this conduct falls short of the federal definition of stalking, meaning law enforcement can do little to prevent and prosecute acts of electronic harassment."

An interesting angle of the proposed law is that Sanchez wants to protect stalking victims who don't know they've been a victim. Under current law, a victim has to prove they have a reasonable fear of being physically attacked before the stalking statute can be enforced. 

Orange County's lone democrat in Congress seeks to change the requirement so that the stalking would only need to offend a reasonable person even if the victim was oblivious. 

Caroline Hogan, Sanchez's press secretary, gave me the following example: An ex-boyfriend follows a woman around throughout the day and she may not recognize the harassing behavior even though an impartial, reasonable observer probably would.

"In those cases, law enforcement and federal prosecutors would be able to point to a pattern of events as they build a legal case against the stalker," according to Hogan.

If her proposal become law, Sanchez says the balance of power been victim and perpetrator will shift. She put teeth into her idea. Cyberstalkers caught violating a court protective order or targeting minors and the elderly face a potential extra five years in prison under the Stalkers Act.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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