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Governor Bush signs anti-stalking legislation

Jan. 30, 1997

By Melissa Miller

Lariat Reporter

Texas adopted a new anti-stalking law Tuesday when Gov. George W. Bush signed a bill making stalking a Class A misdemeanor.

The bill defines stalking as causing fear of bodily injury, death, property damage or any other act that a reasonable person would consider threatening.

Although Baylor Department of Public Safety officials do not believe stalking causes problems around the University, Georgia Smith, a Dripping Springs sophomore, found a man peeking in the window of her apartment.

'It was freaky -- when I went to the window there was some guy staring inside,' Smith said.

She said she believes the man was a hired contractor doing maintenance at her complex. The man left when he realized Smith saw him.

'No Texan should have to live in fear of a stalker, and I am pleased that legislators acted more quickly to restore this important protection,' Bush said in a statement Tuesday.

A previous bill, struck down in 1993, forced around 900 stalking cases to be dismissed because of the vagueness of the bill. Bush hopes the bill will grant added protection to victims of stalkers.

The law states the legal definition of stalking as 'action on more than one occasion, and pursuant to the same course of conduct, that is directed specifically at another person and that the offender knows or should know the victim will regard as threatening; causes the victim or members of the victim's household to fear bodily injury, death or a property offense; and would cause a reasonable person to fear such injury.'

Penalties on the first offense, a Class A misdemeanor, include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. The second offense, a third-degree felony, carries with it a sentence of two to 10 years in jail and an optional fine of up to $10,000. Other provisions include that law enforcement notify the victim before releasing a person arrested for stalking.

'From what I have seen, I think the bill is very applicable,' said Chief Jim Doak, director of the Baylor Department of Public Safety. 'We need to have that weapon in our law enforcement. Stalking is a very unique crime. The bill gives us an added strength to work with. From what I have seen, on the surface, it looks good.'

Doak refused to comment regarding specifics of the bill until he has read it in its entirety.

'I think that it is necessary and it needs to be enforced,' said Candace Carroll, an Arlington freshman. 'Up to this point we have not had any legislation regarding it, and I think that it is a good thing.'

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