Determined the constitutionality of New York State's anti-stalking statute.
Legal Momentum participated as amicus in this case in order to support the constitutionality of New York State's Anti-Stalking Statute. Appellant Paul Stuart was convicted of stalking in the fourth degree after he followed the complainant -- a stranger to him -- at a close distance; lay in wait for her and appeared suddenly at a close distance when she emerged from stores and buildings; stood close to her in cafes and stores, "making his presence felt"; and stood outside the windows of her gym and her bank, staring at her.
During the six week period of Stuart's stalking, the complainant significantly altered her daily routines to avoid seeing him and the strain of repeated encounters with him caused her considerable emotional harm.
Stuart challenged the law, claiming it was unconstitutionally vague and therefore violated the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and its counterpart in the New York State Constitution. The particular provision he challenged punishes a course of conduct undertaken intentionally and for no legitimate purpose, that is directed at a specific person, where the alleged stalker knows or reasonably should know that the conduct "is likely to cause reasonable fear of material harm to the physical health, safety or property" of the victim.
The brief we supported, prepared by Sanctuary for Families, Center for Battered Women's Legal Services, provided the court with social science data on the behavioral patterns of stalkers and the negative impact of stalkers' conduct on their victims. It highlighted a 1998 survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice, which showed that stalking is often a precursor to more violent crimes. The data also illustrated the emotional harm that results to the targeted victim.
The New York State Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of this law, an important tool in protecting victims of domestic violence, among others.