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Congressman Murphy Leads Fight for Stronger Anti-Stalking Laws

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Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Murphy Leads Fight for Stronger Anti-Stalking Laws
Co-Sponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Clarify Federal Stalking Laws, Increase Penalties for Offenders

Today, Congressman Scott Murphy (NY-20) joined with Representatives Loretta Sanchez (CA-47), Leonard Boswell (IA-3) and Virginia Foxx (NC-5) at a press conference where he announced his support for H.R. 5662, the Simplifying the Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe (STALKERS) Act of 2010. This bipartisan legislation would strengthen federal stalking laws to ensure that victims are protected and give law enforcement authorities the tools they need to prevent and prosecute stalkers, including cyberstalkers.

Murphy spoke at the press conference with Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representatives Sanchez, Foxx, and Boswell, ESPN's Erin Andrews, and Mai Fernandez, Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, to promote the legislation to crack down on cyberstalking.

"This bipartisan, commonsense legislation will make our communities safer, and update anti-stalking laws for the 21st Century," said Rep. Murphy. "By increasing punishments, and not mandating that women fear physical injury, we will enable our police force to use their discretion and act quickly to prevent dangerous situations. As a husband and father, I feel that we need to do everything we can to protect women from stalkers."

To view video of the press conference, please click here.

Background:

The STALKERS Act would update anti-stalking rules. Currently, federal law is primarily focused on "conventional" acts of stalking such as following someone across state lines, sending unsolicited mail, or making harassing phone calls. But stalking victims are increasingly suffering from cyberstalking and electronic monitoring such as spyware, bugging, or video surveillance.

Additionally, the STALKERS Act would expand to the scope of federal law to cover "any conduct in or affecting interstate commerce." This straightforward language gives the broadest possible mandate to federal law enforcement. It also extends to acts of surveillance and covers new technologies as they develop. The legislation would allow law enforcement to prosecute any act of stalking that is "reasonably expected" to cause another person serious emotional distress. Current laws cannot be enforced unless a victim can demonstrate a reasonable fear of physical injury, but victims of stalking often do not recognize significant threats until it is too late for law enforcement to intervene; this legislation would give authorities the power to stop stalkers even if a victim is not fully aware of the danger he or she may be facing.

The legislation also increases the punishment for stalking offenses in two special cases: for stalking in violation of a protective order, the maximum sentence increases by five years. For stalking that targets a victim under the age of eighteen, the maximum sentence increases by ten years. Finally, the bill requires the Attorney General to annually evaluate federal, state, and local efforts to enforce stalking laws, and submit an annual report on what works, and what doesn't work, in the enforcement of these laws.

Background:

The STALKERS Act would update anti-stalking rules. Currently, federal law is primarily focused on "conventional" acts of stalking such as following someone across state lines, sending unsolicited mail, or making harassing phone calls. But stalking victims are increasingly suffering from cyberstalking and electronic monitoring such as spyware, bugging, or video surveillance.

Additionally, the STALKERS Act would expand to the scope of federal law to cover "any conduct in or affecting interstate commerce." This straightforward language gives the broadest possible mandate to federal law enforcement. It also extends to acts of surveillance and covers new technologies as they develop. The legislation would allow law enforcement to prosecute any act of stalking that is "reasonably expected" to cause another person serious emotional distress. Current laws cannot be enforced unless a victim can demonstrate a reasonable fear of physical injury, but victims of stalking often do not recognize significant threats until it is too late for law enforcement to intervene; this legislation would give authorities the power to stop stalkers even if a victim is not fully aware of the danger he or she may be facing.

The legislation also increases the punishment for stalking offenses in two special cases: for stalking in violation of a protective order, the maximum sentence increases by five years. For stalking that targets a victim under the age of eighteen, the maximum sentence increases by ten years. Finally, the bill requires the Attorney General to annually evaluate federal, state, and local efforts to enforce stalking laws, and submit an annual report on what works, and what doesn't work, in the enforcement of these laws.


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