CLEVELAND COUNTY, Okla. —
Stronger laws against stalking are set to go into place in Oklahoma on Nov. 1.
The amendment would change the current stalking statute and recognize a broader range of stalking behaviors. The stalking statute has been around for a while, but these new amendments will change the punishment of stalking and how it defines certain situations in which someone may be harassed.
“It criminalizes that behavior that some people might’ve just ignored and just lived with, but that behavior is very dangerous,” said Jennifer Austin, first assistant district attorney in Cleveland County.
Cleveland County said they’ve filed over 500 domestic violence cases since the beginning of 2022 and the new stalking statute amendment will hopefully decrease future cases.
“It is superseding the previous statute that was there that had a lot of things in it but it’s just expanding it,” Austin said.
The amended stalking statute now allows for first-time stalking charges from being a misdemeanor to a felony, meaning punishable offenses can go from one year or less to one to three years starting in November.
“A lot of times, unfortunately, stalking can be someone you’ve never had contact with, that you don’t realize you had contact with,” Austin said.
Although stalking isn’t always associated with domestic violence, the Cleveland County ADA said it can be.
“It’s important for us to recognize those behaviors are not appropriate,” Austin said.
The statute also expands the course of conduct, which now defines specific acts of stalking and the change also allows officers to serve a stalking warning to a suspect when a complaint has been filed.
“Before, when you called the police and you didn’t have a VPO in place, it wouldn’t be a crime for someone to come to your place of employment. Now, that it’s listed as a course of conduct, it can be utilized in that stalking case,” Austin said.
It will go into effect on Nov. 1. Cleveland County also recommends victims of stalking utilize a behavior log of the stalker to keep track of each incident, as evidence for law enforcement.