Maryland has updated its stalking law to include some of the new ways stalkers have been instilling fear.
In Maryland, stalking has been defined as “a malicious course of conduct that includes approaching or pursuing another” in a way that would place that person in reasonable fear. Until now, the targeted person had to be physically followed.
In other words, the stalking had to be in person.
When Maryland’s new stalking law goes into effect Oct. 1, 2022, it will include new technology that stalkers have recently been using to frighten victims.
House Bill 148, introduced by Del. Sandy Bartlett, of Anne Arundel County, and signed by Gov. Larry Hogan on April 21, 2022, came after testimony from advocates against domestic violence, who described stalkers increasingly using digital technology in their threatening and harassing behavior.
Abusers have been placing location-based devices in victims’ vehicles to keep track of where they’ve been traveling. The new law specifies stalking can occur “through the use of a device that can pinpoint or track the location of another without the person’s knowledge or consent.”
In other cases, cameras and microphones have been placed in a victim’s home, or a child’s toy, to monitor activity and conversations.
Judges considering restraining orders will be able to incorporate evidence of digital stalking under the new law, with the hope of preventing an escalation of threatening behavior into actions.
Under the new law, stalking will remain a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of five years behind bars and/or a $5,000 fine. If another crime is committed, the judge would have the ability to sentence the stalking behavior separately, in addition to the other crime.