What Is Ohio's Menacing by Stalking Law?

What Is Ohio's Menacing by Stalking Law?

On an early August morning, a man walked up to a porch of a sorority house at Kent State University. Allegedly he was nude and holding a phone up to his face, seeming to be on some sort of social media platform on his cell phone. The house’s doorbell camera caught the alleged incident, and the house mother reported it to police.

Nearly a month later, the same man allegedly arrived on the porch of a different sorority house. This time, he was wearing red swimming bottoms and had writing on his chest. Again, he was said to be on his phone. Law enforcement officials said, he stayed on the porch for about 10 minutes, looking into the windows and fondling himself.

Authorities posted an image of the man on Facebook, asking for help identifying him. The man allegedly posted messages to some of the members of the last sorority house he visited, which eventually led to his arrest.

The man was charged with felony menacing by stalking.

What Is Menacing by Stalking?

A person could be accused of menacing by stalking if they engage in two or more incidents of knowingly making other people believe they or their family or household members are at risk of physical harm or mental distress. Under Ohio Revised Code 2903.211, mental distress means causing substantial incapacity or a mental state that normally would require treatment by a professional.

It is also illegal for a person to use social media or any electronic form of communication to participate in a pattern of stalking conduct or urge another person to do so. Additionally, a person violates this law when they engage in such behavior to gratify their own sexual desires.

In the circumstances mentioned above, menacing by stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor.

When Is Menacing by Stalking Charged as a Felony?

In the sorority house cases mentioned earlier, the man who allegedly committed the offense was charged with a felony, but the elements mentioned earlier result in a misdemeanor. So why is the man facing a higher level of offense?

Depending on the person’s history and who the offense was committed against, menacing by stalking could be charged as either a fourth- or fifth-degree felony.

Menacing by stalking is a fifth-degree felony when the offense is committed against an officer or employee of a public or private children’s services agency. The maximum prison term for this degree of felony is 12 months.

Menacing by stalking is a fourth-degree felony when the alleged offender:

  • Was previously convicted of this crime;
  • Committed the offense against a minor;
  • Threatened violence against the victim or induced another person to threaten physical harm against them;
  • Trespassed or convinced another person to trespass on property where the victim lives, works, or attends school;
  • Had previously committed acts of violence against the victim or another person;
  • Had a deadly weapon on them;
  • Had a protection order issued against them (whether the person named in the order was the victim or someone else);
  • Caused serious physical harm to the victim’s real or personal property; or
  • Committed the offense against an officer or employee of a public children services agency or a private child placing agency, the offense interfered with the victim’s performance of their duties, and the offender had previously been convicted of this crime

The man faces a fourth-degree felony charge because he trespassed on property where the alleged victims live. If he is convicted, he could spend up to 18 months in prison.

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