The first step is to know what “stalking” is in Maine. In Maine, a Protection from Harassment Order is a civil means to get someone who is harassing you to stay away from you. 5 M.R.S. § 4651. You do not need to have a prior relationship with the person to qualify for protection. If you do have a prior relationship, such as spouse, former spouse or partner, you may instead qualify for a Protection from Abuse Order. These Orders give law enforcement a critical tool to arresting the stalker and pressing charges. How do you show that someone is stalking (or has stalked) you?
Protection from Abuse Orders prohibit a person with a certain prior relationship from “repeatedly and without reasonable cause, following [you] or being at or in the vicinity of [your] home, school, business or work.” If you do not have prior relationship, you may qualify for a Protection from Harassment Order if you can show that the person has engaged in conduct three or more times which are: “acts of intimidation, confrontation, physical force or the threat of physical force directed against any person, family or business that are made with the intention of causing fear, intimidation or damage to personal property and that do in fact cause fear, intimidation or damage to personal property” or one event which qualifies as a criminal act of stalking under Maine criminal laws, 17-A M.R.S. §210-A. Stalking is defined as:
A.The actor intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct directed at or concerning a specific person that would cause a reasonable person:
(1) To suffer serious inconvenience or emotional distress;
(2) To fear bodily injury or to fear bodily injury to a close relation;
(3) To fear death or to fear the death of a close relation;
(4) To fear damage or destruction to or tampering with property; or
(5) To fear injury to or the death of an animal owned by or in the possession and control of that specific person.
As soon as you think you are being stalked, call the police and make a report. They may not be able to take action right away but you want to start creating that record of you reporting, and the police knowing. Keep a note or log whenever you see the stalker, where, and under what circumstances, or if it is safe to do so, record the interactions by taking a picture or video. That chronology will be key later on not only in – seeing patterns but in documenting the threat and making your proof to a court and the police.
While you are identifying those patterns, notice whether you have the same routine every day. If so, try to change it up. Change your route to work if you can, change where you get your coffee, change where you go to lunch or shop. Unfair? Definitely. But it may be safer. Tell friends and family of your concern so they can keep an eye out for you. Think about getting a motion detector camera (like a game camera) so you can put one at your home. Stalkers want power; this is how to take it back. And keep your local police department or sheriff’s department up to date.
Once you have your evidence, go to the closest Maine District Court. They have the paperwork there that you can fill out. Make sure you can describe in detail why it is so threatening or dangerous and what exactly makes you certain the stalker is following you as opposed to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. You will help yourself get protection by paying attention to detail and being able to write it down for the court and the police.
The Maine Court system has written a guide to the process in both Protection from Abuse and Protection from Harassment cases: http://www.courts.maine.gov/reports_pubs/pubs/hanbooks_guides/pa_ph/pa-ph-guide.pdf Attorneys at Skelton, Taintor & Abbott routinely represent and advise litigants on these matters as well. Always remember, if you feel you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
This article is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance in the area of family law. You can contact us at 207.784.3200. Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.