Until 1993, a survivor of domestic violence who was being stalked in Oregon by her abuser had little or no legal protection against the stalking unless she met the criteria for a temporary restraining order. The 1993 Oregon Legislature made stalking a crime and created protections for victims. However, the courts later ruled that law unconstitutional. The 1995 Legislature reworked the troublesome provisions and passed another anti-stalking law.
The law now defines stalking as knowingly alarming or coercing another person or a member of that person’s immediate family or household by engaging in repeated and unwanted contact with the other person. The stalking behavior must meet a standard of “objective reasonableness” – that is, the behavior must be such that any person in the victim’s position (or in the position of the victim’s household) would reasonably feel alarmed or coerced by it.
A person who is being stalked can get protection under the law by making a complaint to any law enforcement officer and requesting an Officer’s Citation. The request must include a sworn statement from the victim – or from the victim’s parent or guardian, if appropriate – describing the stalking.
The Officer’s Citation is issued when the officer has “probable cause” to believe that the alleged stalker has made repeated, unwelcome contact with the victim and that it is reasonable for the victim to be alarmed for her own safety and/or the safety of members of her immediate family or household.
The Officer’s Citation tells the alleged stalker to appear in court within three court-business days under penalty of arrest – for a hearing at which the alleged stalker must show cause as to why a judicial stalking order should not be issued. During that three-day period before the court hearing, the victim is protected under the Officer’s Citation.
The Officer’s Citation also includes a copy of the stalking complaint and notifies the victim of the time and place of the hearing.
The protective order will be granted if the victim appears at the hearing and the court determines that:
- The respondent (the stalker) has intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly made repeated and unwanted contact with the petitioner (the victim) or with members of the victim’s immediate family or household and, as a result, alarmed or coerced the victim, and
- It is objectively reasonable for the victim to have been alarmed.
Unless the court limits the duration of the protective order, it is permanent.
The court can order the stalker to undergo a mental health evaluation and can move to commit the stalker if there is probable cause to believe he is dangerous to himself or others or is unable to care for himself.
The law sets criminal and civil penalties for stalking. A stalker may be convicted of a misdemeanor unless the stalker has a prior conviction for stalking or has violated a stalking protective order, in which case the latest stalking offense can be filed as a felony. The victim also may file a civil lawsuit against the stalker for money to be paid as compensatory and punitive damages.