“Stalking” is defined generally as the following of another person by stealth. Alternatively, it can be the following or loitering near the other person, often surreptitiously, with the purpose of annoying or harassing him or her.

ArrestWashington, DC

There are two basic elements to the criminal offense of stalking in Washington, D.C.  The first element the prosecution must prove is that the person had the criminal intent (or mens rea) either to cause the other person emotional distress or to put the other person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury.

Secondly, the prosecution must prove that the offender acted willfully, maliciously and repeatedly in following or harassing the other person.  “Repeatedly” is defined as more than once.  “Harassing” is defined as “engaging in a course of conduct either in person, by telephone, or in writing, directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms, annoys, frightens, or torments the person” or which causes “a reasonable person to be seriously alarmed, annoyed, frightened, or tormented.”

The offense does not cover constitutionally protected activities, such as picketing a company during a labor dispute.

The penalty for stalking in D.C. is a maximum fine of $500 and/or up to 1 year imprisonment.  There are increased penalties for second or subsequent offenses during a two-year period or for violations of the statute when some type of protective order (e.g., temporary restraining or stay-away order) is in effect.  D.C. Criminal Code 22-404(b)-(e).


The government must prove two elements in order to secure a conviction for stalking in Virginia.  First, the government must prove that the defendant engaged in conduct directed toward another person on more than one occasion.  Second, the defendant must have intended or known that the conduct would put the other person in reasonable fear of some type of injury.  The penalty for a conviction for stalking in Virginia is a term of imprisonment from one to five years, confinement in jail for up to 12 months, and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.  Virginia Criminal Code § 18.2-60.3.