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Arizona Stalking Laws: ARS 13-2923

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Arizona Stalking Laws: ARS 13-2923

In Arizona, the law against stalking is outlined in ARS 13-2923, which defines stalking as a course of conduct involving two or more occasions over a period of time where the perpetrator engages in behavior that causes the victim to fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. 

Individuals charged with stalking may have exhibited behaviors such as following, tracking, or surveilling the victim, or making unwanted contact in person, by phone, or through electronic means. The law also considers actions that involve visual or physical proximity to a specific person as stalking. 

If you or someone you know has been accused of stalking, it is crucial to seek legal guidance from experienced criminal defense attorneys like those at Colburn Hintze Maletta Criminal Defense Firm. The consequences of a stalking conviction can be severe, and may even result in incarceration.

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Stalking Laws

What are the Categories of Stalking?

In Arizona, as in many jurisdictions, stalking can be categorized to help identify the nature of the behavior and to apply the appropriate legal remedies. 

 Here are the commonly recognized categories:

  1. Physical Stalking: This is the most visible form of stalking, where the perpetrator physically follows or shows up near the victim without their consent. Physical stalking is often the easiest to document due to the tangible presence of the stalker. It includes actions like appearing at a person’s home, workplace, or other locations frequented by the victim. 
  2. Cyberstalking: This modern form of stalking uses technology to harass or intimidate the victim. It encompasses a wide range of activities such as sending threatening emails, spreading malicious rumors online, identity theft, and other online harassment tactics.
  3. Visual or Verbal Stalking: This category involves unwanted and repeated communication that can be threatening or cause significant distress. Communications can be in various forms, including phone calls, text messages, letters, and emails. This type of stalking doesn’t necessarily involve physical following but includes any repetitive, unwanted contact that instills fear or anxiety in the victim.
  4. Indirect Stalking: Also known as third-party stalking, this occurs when the stalker uses someone else to relay messages, gather information, or intimidate the victim. The stalker might manipulate friends, family, or acquaintances into unwittingly contributing to the harassment. 

What is Arizona Stalking Law Under ARS 13-2923

ARS 13-2923,  specifies that stalking occurs when an individual intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, causing them to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress. This conduct includes following, monitoring, or communicating in a way not authorized by law.

Elements of Stalking 

In legal terms, an “element” refers to a component or part of a statute, regulation, or legal charge that must be proven for the charge or regulation to be applicable.


For a defendant to be convicted, the prosecution must prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Now, let’s break down the elements of Arizona’s stalking law under ARS 13-2923 in more detail:

1.) Intentional or Knowing Behavior: The accused must have consciously engaged in behavior considered stalking, showing deliberate actions or awareness that their conduct could be perceived as stalking.

2.) Course of Conduct: Involves repeated actions like following or communicating with the victim, establishing a consistent pattern that induces fear or distress.

3.) Directed at a Specific Person: The accused’s actions must be aimed directly at a particular individual, distinguishing targeted behavior from general misconduct.

4.)Reasonable Person Standard: The behavior should be such that it would cause a reasonable person to feel unsafe or extremely distressed, providing an objective measure for evaluating the victim’s reaction.

5.)Actual Fear or Emotional Distress: The victim needs to have genuinely experienced fear or significant distress as a direct outcome of the accused’s behavior, tying personal impact to the stalker’s actions.

What Does the Statute Mean by “Course of Conduct” and “Emotional Distress”?

Course of Conduct: “Course of conduct” refers to a pattern of behavior composed of two or more actions conducted over any period, demonstrating a continuity of purpose.

This means that the behaviors, when viewed together, indicate a sustained effort by the stalker to engage in a particular kind of interaction with or about the victim.

Examples include repeatedly following someone, making unsolicited communications (such as calls, texts, or emails), surveillance, or any actions that demonstrate an ongoing obsession or focus on the victim.


The important factor is the repetitive nature, showing that the actions are not isolated incidents but part of an ongoing pattern.

Emotional Distress: The term “emotional distress” in the statute refers to significant mental suffering or anguish that goes beyond temporary upset or disappointment. This distress must be substantial, meaning that it could significantly affect someone’s mental well-being, potentially requiring professional treatment or counseling.

The law does not necessitate that the victim seek medical or psychological treatment to prove emotional distress; however, the victim’s mental state must align with what a reasonable person would likely endure under similar circumstances. This distress could manifest through anxiety, fear, depression, or other significant emotional reactions directly related to the stalker’s conduct.

Wireless and Electronic Stalking

In the digital age, stalking has transcended physical boundaries to include wireless and electronic forms, presenting new challenges for victims and law enforcement alike.

This modern variant, often referred to as cyberstalking, involves the use of technology to harass, intimidate, or monitor a specific person without authorization.

Characteristics of Wireless and Electronic Stalking:

  • Electronic Communication: This includes unwanted contact via email, social media, instant messaging, or other online platforms. Stalkers may use electronic communication to send threatening messages, spread harmful information, or simply to maintain an unwanted presence in the victim’s life.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) Devices: Stalkers may use GPS devices to track a victim’s location without their consent. This can involve placing a device on the victim’s vehicle or using smartphone apps to monitor their movements.
  • Surveillance of Internet or Wireless Activity: This form of stalking involves monitoring a person’s online behaviors, including their social media usage, browsing history, or other internet activities. The stalker might use spyware, hacking, or other unauthorized methods to gain access to the victim’s digital life.
  • Specific Person Targeting: Wireless and electronic stalking focuses on a specific individual, making the behavior particularly invasive and personal. The stalker’s actions are directed at surveilling a specific person or a specific person’s internet or wireless activity, often over a prolonged period.



Penalties for Stalking Charges 

The penalties for stalking charges are determined by several factors, including the severity of the conduct, the stalker’s criminal history, and whether any protective orders were in place. Stalking can be classified under different categories of misdemeanors or felonies, with consequences escalating based on the specifics of the case. 

  1. Misdemeanor Stalking: In less severe cases, stalking may be charged as a misdemeanor. This could apply to situations where the stalking behavior was less threatening or if it’s the individual’s first offense. Penalties for a misdemeanor stalking charge can include probation, mandatory counseling, fines, and up to one year in jail.
  2. Felony Stalking: More severe cases, especially those involving threats of violence, violation of protective orders, or previous stalking convictions, can result in felony charges. Felony stalking is a serious offense and can lead to significant consequences, including several years in prison, larger fines, extended probation periods, and mandatory counseling programs. The exact penalties vary depending on whether the charge is a Class 3, Class 4, or Class 5 felony, with Class 3 Felony being the most severe.
  3. Protective Orders and Restraining Orders: In addition to criminal penalties, courts can issue protective orders or restraining orders against the stalker, prohibiting them from contacting or approaching the victim. Violating these orders can lead to additional charges and penalties, further compounding the stalker’s legal challenges.
  4. Impact on Employment and Housing: Beyond the immediate legal penalties, a stalking conviction can have long-term effects on a person’s life, including difficulties in finding employment, loss of professional licenses, and challenges in securing housing.
  5. Restitution and Damages: The court may also order the stalker to pay restitution to the victim. This can cover costs related to the stalking, such as counseling services, security measures, and any other expenses incurred because of the stalking behavior.


Difference Between Misdemeanor Stalking and Felony Stalking

In Arizona, stalking charges can be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the severity of the behavior, the presence of aggravating factors, and the defendant’s criminal history. 

Misdemeanor Stalking: Misdemeanor stalking typically involves less severe behavior and may be charged when the stalking does not include overt threats of death or physical injury or other aggravating factors.

Examples of misdemeanor stalking might include:

  • Repeatedly sending unwanted texts or emails to someone without threatening harm.
  • Following someone on multiple occasions but not causing reasonable fear for their safety.
  • Unsolicited communication or monitoring that causes distress but does not escalate to threats of violence.

Felony Stalking: Felony stalking charges arise from more serious circumstances and can include situations where:

  • The stalker makes credible threats of violence against the victim or their family.
  • The victim is under 15 years old (which significantly increases the severity of the charge).
  • The stalking occurs in violation of an existing protective order.
  • The defendant has prior stalking convictions or the stalking involves other aggravating factors.

Examples of felony stalking include:

  • Following someone repeatedly while making clear threats to harm them or their loved ones.
  • Using electronic means, such as GPS tracking, to monitor someone’s movements after being expressly forbidden to do so by law or court order.
  • Engaging in a pattern of conduct that causes the victim to fear for their life, especially when the stalker has been previously instructed to cease contact.

Defense Strategies 

When charged with stalking in Arizona, creating a strong defense plan is vital. The strategy will depend on the case details, but there are common defenses to use.

Lack of Intent

If the accused didn’t mean to scare or upset the victim, this could reduce the charges, especially if their behavior was misunderstood or they didn’t realize their actions were unwelcome.

Reasonable Behavior

Actions considered normal or non-threatening, due to the nature of the relationship or professional duties, may counter stalking accusations.

Mistaken Identity

Arguing that the wrong person has been accused, especially in cases of online harassment, can be a valid defense.

First Amendment Rights

In rare cases, the accused might claim their actions were legally protected free speech, though this does not apply to threats or inducing fear.

Lack of Substantial Emotional Distress

Demonstrating that the victim did not experience significant anxiety or fear can weaken the case against the defendant.

Consent or Invitation

Showing that the victim agreed to the interactions could dismiss stalking claims, but evidence of consent must be clear and noted that it can be revoked.


Frequently Asked Questions About Stalking in Arizona

Q1: What constitutes as a ‘course of conduct’ when a person commits stalking?

A1: A “course of conduct” involves actions directed toward another person, such as surveilling a specific person on two or more occasions, which instills fear or emotional distress. This can include using a global positioning system device to surveil without a legitimate purpose or engaging in unwanted electronic or wireless activity continuously.

Q2: How is the crime of stalking defined in the State of Arizona?

A2: In Arizona, stalking is charged when an individual repeatedly follows, communicates with, or surveils a specific person, leading to fear of death, physical injury, or significant emotional distress. This behavior must occur more than once, with at least one occasion occurring six months before the last, to meet the legal definition.

Q3: What are the penalties if someone is convicted of stalking as a Class 3 felony?

A3: If charged as a Class 3 felony, stalking is punishable by up to seven years in prison. This severe classification applies when the stalking causes a specific person to fear for their safety or the safety of an immediate family member, particularly if there’s a history of similar behavior or if the victim resided in the victim’s household within the six months prior to the offense.

Q4: Can stalking include monitoring someone’s internet or wireless activity?

 A4: Yes, stalking can include the continuous surveillance of a specific person’s internet or wireless activity for twelve months or more, especially if done without a legitimate purpose. This can be considered a violation of privacy and a form of stalking if it’s directed toward another person and causes distress or fear.

Q5: What should I do if I’ve been accused of stalking but believe my actions were misunderstood or authorized by law?

A5: If facing stalking allegations but believe there has been a misunderstanding or your actions were legally justified, it’s important to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Legal professionals can clarify whether your activity was authorized by law and help address the charges, especially in complex cases where the alleged fear was not reasonable or where the accused rather suffered emotional distress.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney 

For professional legal assistance, consider reaching out to Colburn Hintze Maletta. They offer a FREE and confidential 30-60 minute initial consultation, providing an opportunity to discuss your case with an affordable criminal defense lawyer. Their expertise can be invaluable in understanding your rights and options under Arizona law.

During our call, we’ll review your entire case from top to bottom to strategize a winning defense. Don’t delay, give us a call at (602) 825-2500.

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