In the first week of the 113th Congress, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) re-introduced a tough bill that would strengthen federal anti-stalking laws to address the new technology predators are using to harass their victims. In addition to clarifying existing laws, H.R. 206, the Simplifying the Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe (STALKERS) Act of 2013, would give law enforcement authorities the tools they need to prevent and prosecute stalking in the digital age.
The House of Representatives passed this bipartisan legislation by unanimous consent in the 111th Congress but it was not voted on in the Senate. In the 112th Congress, the bill was introduced but not brought to the floor and was instead attached to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
"Law enforcement must be given the appropriate tools to combat stalking and cyber stalking in the 21st century," said Rep. Sanchez. "Unfortunately, our laws haven't been updated to cover harassment through electronic surveillance and other new technologies. I am proud to join Rep. Foxx in re-introducing this important bill, which will take crucial steps to prosecute predators and empower victims. I hope in the 113th Congress, this bill will continue to gain steam and will garner the bipartisan support it needs to be signed into law -- we need these protections."
"Stalkers inflict real pain in the lives of thousands of women every year, and with the growing threat of cyberstalking, federal stalking laws are long overdue for an update," Rep. Foxx said. "Rep. Sanchez and I recognize this and are again introducing legislation to modernize federal law. The STALKERS Act will equip law enforcement and victims, and put fear back where it belongs -- in the hearts of lawbreaking stalkers who prey on the innocent."
Current federal anti-stalking laws are outdated and may not cover all acts of electronic surveillance, including spyware, bugging, video surveillance, and other new technology used by modern-day stalkers.
The legislation empowers law enforcement to prosecute any act of stalking that would be "reasonably expected" to cause a person serious emotional distress. It requires the attorney general to evaluate federal, state, and local efforts to enforce anti-stalking laws and submit an annual report on best practices.
Additionally, the bill increases the punishment for stalking offenses to protect the most vulnerable victims of stalking. Offenders who are convicted for violating protection orders, stalking minors, or stalking the elderly may be sentenced to a maximum additional five years in prison.