Stalking or Hanging Out?

The state Supreme Court takes a broad view of the issue.

The state Supreme Court has now made it much more likely you'll go to jail if you have a habit of stalking. In a series of decisions last week, the court clarified what it means to violate a no-contact order, and emphasized the illegality of following women you don't know. Edward, pay attention. In the first ruling, the court considered three cases in which people were arrested for violating a no-contact order. In two of the cases, the person who had sought the no-contact order was found willingly riding in a car with the person against whom they had sought the order—the violation was only discovered when they were pulled over on a traffic stop. The court ruled 8-1 that violating the order is illegal, even if the person who obtained it doesn't object. (Justice Richard Sanders, known for siding with the accused, authored the lone dissent.) As Nina Shapiro reported in 2007 ("Victim Without a Voice," Oct. 31), prosecutors often push for judges to impose no-contact orders in cases of alleged domestic violence, even if the purported victim doesn't want it and retracts her accusation. The high court decision affirms that authorities can also prosecute any violation of that order, even if it happened with her permission. Another decision handed down last week concerned a man named Clarence Kintz, who was twice convicted of following women he didn't know in the Lake Sammamish area in a white van. He would stop and ask for directions, then slowly drive past them repeatedly several more times until, in both cases, they called the cops. Kintz's defense was that he was merely lost and never threatened the women in any way. And he found some sympathy. Sanders and Justice Tom Chambers argued that upholding his conviction would mean that "many Washingtonians would be guilty of stalking in their everyday lives...A man who uses an ill-considered pickup line, is rebuffed, but again attempts to woo the object of his affection later, could be convicted of stalking. This cannot be right." But seven members of the state high court ruled that Kintz's behavior went too far. Writing for the majority, Justice Gerry Alexander noted that Kintz's own expert in clinical psychology "answered 'yes' when asked if 'women reasonably fear harm or injury when stalked in the manner described in these police reports.'"

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