The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law
Stalking No Contact Order Act
Since the passage of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act in 1986, the courts have issued domestic violence civil order of protection for persons who have had a dating or familial relationship. Under the auspices of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, in 1993 the legislature created the Task Force on Domestic Violence Training and Curricula which issued a model protocol in 1996. I was fortunate in 2004 to Chair the update of the protocol which was issued in 2007. One of the issues discussed by the reconvened task force was the offense of stalking and how many complainants who were the subject of such actions were ineligible to be covered by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. The Illinois General Assembly has addressed that shortcoming and passed the Civil Liabilities, Stalking No Contact Order Act, which was effective January 1, 2010.
Under that Act, 740 ILCS 21, et. al, the courts now also hold civil stalking no contact proceedings for persons who have not had a dating or intimate relationship but where conduct is alleged to have reached the level of stalking. The persons covered by the Act are those where relief is not available by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 who is a victim of stalking or by a person on behalf of a minor child or adult who is a victim of stalking but, because of age, disability, health or inaccessibility, cannot file the petition.
The legislative purpose of the 740 ILCS 21 is to deter a course of conduct, not a single act. “Stalking behavior includes following a person, conducting surveillance of the person, appearing at the person’s home, work or school, making unwanted phone calls, sending unwanted e-mails or text messages, leaving objects for the person, vandalizing the person’s property, or injuring a pet. Stalking is a serious crime. Victims experience fear for their safety, fear for the safety of others and suffer emotional distress. Many victims alter their daily routines to avoid the persons who are stalking them. Some victims are in such fear that they relocate to another city, town or state. While estimates suggest that 70% of victims know the individuals stalking them, only 30% of victims have dated or been in intimate relationships with their stalkers.”
The statute defines “course of conduct” as two or more acts which include but are not limited to acts where a respondent directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any means, action method or device follows, monitors, observes surveils, threats or communicates to or about a person and engages in other conduct or interferes with or damages a person’s property or pet. This conduct may include electronic communications. Additionally, a respondent’s incarceration does not bar proceedings under the Act.
The proceedings and protections mirror many of the provisions of the domestic violence order of protection act. Both parties are entitled to hire counsel to represent their respective interests. The orders are meant to provide protection for individuals who present sufficient evidence to the court. Since this is a civil, not a criminal proceeding, the standard of the burden of proof is by a preponderance of evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, the act prohibits mutual stalking no contact orders.
Although intentional violation of a no contact stalking order is a Class A misdemeanor with a second or subsequent violation a Class 4 felony, other criminal charges such as Stalking or Aggravated Stalking may also be lodged in particular situations.
The Model Domestic Violence Protocol of 2007 listed some alarming statistics about the offense of stalking, albeit in the context of domestic violence. It cited the National Violence Against Women Survey that found one in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime, accounting for 1,006,970 annually. Additionally, although all stalking does not lead to physical or sexual violence, the act is often a precursor to homicide of women.
Since the Stalking No Contact Order Act is relatively new, its effectiveness in addressing this behavior has not been fully measured. It does provide a legal remedy to address what can be an alarming and concerning situation. ■