Guide to Aggravated Stalking
A Quick Guide to O.C.G.A. 16-5-91 – Aggravated Stalking
This guide breaks down the elements necessary to be convicted of violating Georgia’s law regarding Aggravated Stalking, one of the most serious charges in the state, which often can lead to murder.
Section 1. General
O.C.G.A. 16-5-91(a) states: A person commits the offense of aggravated stalking when such person, in violation of a bond to keep the peace posted pursuant to Code Section 17-6-110, temporary restraining order, temporary protective order, permanent restraining order, permanent protective order, preliminary injunction, good behavior bond, or permanent injunction or condition of pretrial release, condition of probation, or condition of parole in effect prohibiting the behavior described in this subsection, follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person.
Therefore, there are four essential elements to this charge:
1) the existence of a mentioned court order
4) to harass and intimidate
Section 2. Contact
The term contact is defined by the simple stalking statute, OCGA 16-5-90(a)(1) to mean “any communication including without being limited to communication in person, by telephone, by mail, by broadcast, by computer, by computer network, or by any other electronic device.”
Therefore communication by telephone can be considered “contact” in terms of OCGA 16-5-91. Johnson v. State, 264 Ga. 590, 591, states that “to contact is readily understood by people of ordinary intelligence as meaning to get in touch with, communicate with.” Webster’s dictionary defined communication as “the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.”
In Seibert v. State, 321 Ga. App 243, the court of appeals was presented with the case of Mr. Steven Seibert who was convicted of aggravated stalking. Mr. Siebert’s ex wife, Ms. Swords had a restraining order against Mr. Seibert which prohibited any contact between the two whatsoever. Mr. Seibert did not comply and was later convicted for other crimes, the sentence of which included a no contact order with Ms. Swords.
In 2010 Mr. Seibert filed a civil suit against Ms. Swords and Ms. Swords took the complaint to the DA, John Warr. Seibert then sent Warr several documents including a letter from Seibert to Swords in the care of Warr, asking him to deliver the letter to Swords. Swords never actually received the letter.
Mr. Seibert was indicted for that letter as the DA considered it a “contact” in violation of his previous sentence. A trial was had and the jury convicted Seibert to 10 years. On appeal the court held that an error because “the state failed to prove there was actual contact with Swords.” “An attempt to contact another person, precisely the conduct with which the state charged Seibert, is to attempt to stalk.”
Section 3. To Harass and Intimidate
In State v. Burke, 287 Ga 377, the Georgia Supreme Court held that a “single violation of a protective order, by itself, does not amount to aggravated stalking. The harassing and intimidating conduct must be established by a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior. However, Louisyr v. State, 307 Ga App 724, established that such pattern must have actually violated a protective order. Such behavior could have occurred prior to the existence of such an order, and if it did, can still act as part of such a pattern. That is, “in determining whether a defendant has exhibited such a pattern of behavior, the jury can consider a number of factors, including the prior history between the parties…”
I hope this blog post has been helpful to the reader in understanding the meaning and reasoning behind Georgia’s very harsh aggravated stalking laws.