The Texas Stalking Statute: New Updates

Texas judge at his desk reviewing changes to stalking laws

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In Texas, stalking refers to engaging in a pattern of behaviors that are directed at a specific person and that are designed to leave the victim fearful or that would cause a reasonable person to be fearful. Stalking can include threats in addition to direct actions, and the results can be devastating.

If you are facing a stalking charge, it’s a serious legal matter, and seeking the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Killeen criminal defense attorney is always in your best interest.

The Specifics of the Stalking Law in Texas

The stalking laws in Texas were updated in September 2023. The updated law states that a person commits the crime of stalking if he or she – on more than one occasion and in the same vein of conduct – knowingly engages in actions that are directed at another person and that either constitute a stalking offense or that the accused knew or should have known would cause the victim to feel threatened in one of the following ways:

  • Threatened by bodily injury or death

  • Threatened by the bodily injury or death of a family member or other household member

  • Threatened by the bodily injury or death of a romantic partner

  • Threatened by property damage

If the accused causes anyone to experience either of the following feelings, it also qualifies as stalking:

  • Fear of bodily injury or death

  • Feel harassed, terrified, intimidated, abused, annoyed, alarmed, embarrassed, tormented, or offended

A Reasonable Person

If the actions of the accused would cause a reasonable person under similar circumstances to experience any of the following emotions, it’s covered by the stalking statute in Texas:

  • Fear of being injured or killed

  • Fear that an offense will cause a family member, a household member, or a romantic partner to be injured or killed

  • Fear that his or her property will be damaged by an offense

  • The experience of harassment, terror, intimidation, annoyance, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrassment, or offense

The Required Elements

The state must prove all the following elements in order to secure a stalking conviction:

  • The accused must have known – or should reasonably have known – that the stalking victim would regard the communication as threatening.

  • The accused must have knowingly engaged in the stalking conduct in question.

  • The accused must have caused the stalking victim to fear bodily injury or death, to fear property damage, or to experience harassment, annoyance, torment, alarm, abuse, offense, or embarrassment.

  • The accused must have engaged in harassing conduct or have threatened harm.

  • If a reasonable person experienced any of the situations listed above, he or she would have credibly feared for his or her life or property or felt harassed, annoyed, abused, alarmed, tormented, offended, or embarrassed.

In other words, the definition is complex, and the required elements are comprehensive.

On September 1, 2023, Texas added a prohibition as a condition of bond for offenders in domestic violence and stalking cases against tracking or monitoring their victims – whether with a tracking device or by physically following them.

It is also now a crime for a defendant on bond, a parolee, or someone on probation to knowingly remove or disable an electronic tracking device used to monitor his or her location. Prior to September 1, 2023, doing so was considered a technical violation.

These charge increases could have a direct effect on stalkers, who generally make it their habit to monitor others rather than to be monitored themselves.


Harassment is a crime in and of itself, but it blossoms into the even more serious crime of stalking when it happens on repeat.

When the accused knowingly engages in harassment against the same person on more than one occasion, it fits the bill for stalking. The actions of the accused do not have to reach the level of harassment for a charge of stalking to hold – as long as he or she threatens bodily harm or damage to property.

The charge of harassment involves the intent to do any of the following to someone else:

  • To harass

  • To alarm

  • To annoy

  • To embarrass

  • To torment

  • To abuse

Harassment can include communication that is threatening or obscene. Sending out a false alarm regarding a member of the victim’s family being seriously or fatally injured also suffices. Finally, engaging in any of the following behaviors is considered harassment in the State of Texas:

  • Calling and hanging up on someone

  • Engaging in repeated calls or electronic communications with someone else that are likely to cause emotional distress, leave him or her feeling abused, or torment him or her


In order for the charge of harassment to apply, the accused must have acted with the deliberate intent of causing the other person to experience discomfort or distress. Leaving someone feeling harassed isn’t enough in the eyes of the law for the charge of harassment to stick. Instead, the accused must have intended to harass the victim.

Actions that accidentally or unintentionally harass someone else generally don’t rise to the legal standard of harassment. Sending a harassing text to the wrong number, for example, is likely to bother the person who receives it, but the lack of intent doesn’t qualify the act as harassment in the State of Texas.

Lack of intent can be a strong defense for stalking and harassment charges. Discuss your case with a Killeen criminal defense lawyer to see if this defense applies to your case.

The Basic Forms of Harassment

It can be valuable to consider the various basic forms of harassment more carefully.

To Harass

To harass someone is to intentionally and persistently torment or annoy him or her. Harassment can be accomplished via ongoing communications, following the other person, or engaging in any other practices that persistently disturb the other’s peace.

To Alarm

When someone is alarmed, he or she experiences an elevated state of awareness, which can be achieved through threats or actions that make the other person fear for his or her own safety and well-being or for the safety and well-being of someone close to him or her.

To Annoy

To annoy someone else is to irritate or disturb, which is typically accomplished by engaging in a persistent, unwelcome action. While annoying someone else is less focused than harassment, it nevertheless causes the victim to experience discomfort.

To Abuse

When the accused treats another person cruelly or violently – especially on a repeated basis – it amounts to abuse. In the context of harassment, abuse tends to focus on mistreatment that is psychological or emotional in nature. However, physical abuse can also play a role.

To Embarrass

Causing others to suffer embarrassment refers to making them feel ashamed or self-conscious, which can be a matter of revealing personal information about them, mocking them publicly, or engaging in other practices that the victim finds demeaning or belittling.

To Torment

Tormenting another person involves inflicting serious psychological or physical pain. Torment involves an element of cruelty and intensity that makes it more focused than mere annoyance.

Common Examples of Stalking Behaviors

While no two stalking cases are ever identical, the behaviors that stalkers tend to engage in generally fall into categories like the following:

  • Following the victim or following members of the victim’s family or household

  • Watching the victim from a distance

  • Vandalizing the victim’s property

  • Inflicting damage on the victim’s property, such as by harming a pet, damaging a vehicle, or breaking windows in a residence

  • Driving by the places the victim frequents, such as an office or regular hangout

  • Sending the victim unwelcome gifts

  • Calling, emailing, texting, or messaging the victim repeatedly

  • Waiting around for the victim to arrive at or leave a specific location

  • Using a GPS or another kind of tracking software to keep tabs on the victim

Stalking Charges: The Required Element of Fear

In order for a stalking charge to hold, the accused must have caused the victim to experience credible fear, which can be difficult to prove.

People react to stressful situations differently, and some people express irritation rather than fear in response to being stalked, but this irritation often masks an underlying fear related to the unpredictable nature of someone who chooses to seek them out and harass, follow, or otherwise torment them.

Victims sometimes internalize their fear, which can manifest as self-isolation, anxiety, hopelessness, depression, hypervigilance, stress, and nervousness – each of which can be painful to endure and difficult to overcome. The following signs tend to show that victims may be fearful although they have a hard time identifying the feeling:

  • If they change their outlooks on life

  • If they change their routines or behaviors in response to the stalking

  • If they begin to avoid going out

  • If they change the routes they normally travel, such as their daily commute to work

  • If they avoid specific locations

If a reasonable person would experience fear under similar circumstances, proving the victim’s express fear may not be necessary.

If all of the requirements for stalking apply to your case, your seasoned Killeen criminal defense attorney will help you determine a strong defense that will protect your rights throughout the process.

No One Needs to Be Harmed and No Property Needs to Be Damaged for the Charge of Stalking to Apply

An individual can be accused of stalking even if no one was harmed and no property was damaged in the process.

Stalking encompasses repeated harassment, the repeated threat of being harmed, the repeated threat of one’s property being damaged, or the repeated threat of a loved one being harmed. As such, no one needs to be physically harmed and no property needs to be damaged in the process. This is not to say, however, that emotional or psychological harm isn’t a concern.

FAQ about Stalking Charges

If you’re facing a stalking charge, the answers to the questions asked most frequently by others in your situation can help.

I’m Facing a Stalking Charge. What Should I Do?

If you’ve been charged with stalking, it’s important to take the matter very seriously because the consequences of a conviction are harsh. The most important first step you can take in response to a charge of this magnitude is to consult with a seasoned Killeen criminal defense attorney as early in the process as possible.

What Penalties Are Associated with a Stalking Conviction in Texas?

A first stalking offense in Texas is generally charged as a third-degree felony, and a conviction carries a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and fines of up to $10,000. From here, things become even more serious:

  • If the accused has a prior stalking offense – or a similar conviction – the charge can be elevated to a second-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of 2 to 20 years and fines of up to $10,000.

  • If the victim is a minor, an elderly person, disabled, or a public servant, a first offense can be charged as a second-degree felony, which carries the same fines and penalties as described above.

  • If the offense involves an aggravating factor, such as the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime, the associated fines and penalties can be enhanced.

In addition to the fines and penalties that stalkers face, victims of stalking can also seek restraining orders against their stalkers that are designed to prohibit contact.

Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a dedicated criminal defense attorney who will leave no stone unturned in his focused defense of your rights – in fierce pursuit of your case’s best possible resolution. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at (254) 781-4222 and scheduling your FREE consultation today.

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