Thanks to a handful of laws passed by the Georgia legislature and signed by Governor Kemp, individuals who find themselves to be victims of stalking now have broader protections under the law.
Under Georgia law, a person commits the offense of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at a place without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.
Beginning July 1, a few changes have been made to the laws that govern victims of stalking. Among those are:
- HB 231 – which expands the applicability of protective orders for stalking to include individuals who were in a ‘dating relationship’ or are victims of ‘dating violence.’ The standard for a hearing on the matter to allow the accused to appear in court still applies, as is the case with Family Violence Protection Orders, and allows social service agency staff members to assist victims in completing paperwork. Once a hearing occurs, a judge can issue an order for up to one year and it can later be extended for up to three years. If a person violates this type of protective order, they can be punished civilly or criminally or both.
- HB 236 – which allows a petitioner of a protective order (for stalking or family violence) to request periodic security checks from any local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in which the petitioner resides. When those checks occur is at the discretion of the agency and cannot exceed a period of 60 days.
- SB 75 – which allows individuals who have taken out civil or criminal protective orders against another person to cancel their residential lease without penalty. This is only permitted if a civil protective order is accompanied by a police report where the victim reported stalking to the police or where a civil proceeding resulted in an order by a judge following a presentation of facts on the allegations of stalking. Currently, this provision under the law only applies to victims who have Family Violence Orders in place.
Stalking (OCGA § 16-5-90) is a misdemeanor offense in Georgia, unless an individual has been convicted more than once or if an individual who has a stalking order against them violates that order while it is in effect. In those cases, the offense is a felony. When a person is convicted of stalking, a judge has the authority to issue a permanent restraining order and may also require psychological treatment of the offender as a part of the sentence.
Stalking is often an indicator of other types of abuse and has been known to precede more severe forms of abuse. 1 in every 6 women and 1 out of 19 men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime totaling more than 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men. Nearly three of every four female victims of stalking know their stalker.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence also reports that one in seven victims of stalking are forced to move because of their stalker. Between 21-60% of victims of stalking victims and those of other types of similar abuse lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.