Stalking, or harassment, can take various forms, such as between ex-partners, in the form of phone harassment, at the workplace, etc. It is criminalized under Article 442bis of the Penal Code, which penalizes “anyone who has harassed a person while knowing or should have known that his behavior would seriously disrupt the peace of that particular person.”
But where is the boundary of criminality, and what can you do as a victim?
What is stalking or harassment?
There is no strict definition of stalking. This deliberate choice by the legislator allows judges to interpret the concept based on an evolving society. In general, stalking or harassment can be defined as “bothering someone in a way that causes them distress.” This definition is quite broad.
Therefore, some additional criteria are crucial to consider it as stalking:
The harassing actions must have caused “the peace of a specific person to be seriously disturbed.” The precision “specific person” is not accidental. In this way, the legislator excludes certain categories of “harassers” from the scope, such as beggars, paparazzi, representatives, etc. Also, the term “serious” limits the scope. Here, too, the interpretation of the judge is crucial.
The harasser “knew or should have known” that his behavior would seriously disturb the peace of the harassed person. This implies that the acts were intentional. The “intentional” factor is assessed by comparing the harasser’s behavior with that of a “normal, careful, and prudent citizen.” Therefore, if your actions deviate from what the majority of citizens would consider seriously harassing, you can assume that your actions are criminal. It is abnormal behavior that is targeted.
What to do as a victim of stalking?
Step 1: Complaint to the police
We recommend filing a complaint with the police every time you are harassed by your stalker. To prove that the perpetrator is causing you distress, you must be able to ‘prove’ the criteria described above as well as possible. The most efficient way to do this is to have the police draw up a report for each fact.
Step 2: Complaint to the investigating judge
If the stalking persists despite the above steps, you, as a victim, can also file a complaint with the investigating judge. This initiates a criminal investigation, where the court ultimately decides whether there is indeed stalking and, if so, what the punishment is for the perpetrator.
Note that to create a certain ‘threshold,’ a certain amount is linked to filing a complaint with the investigating judge. When you initiate a criminal investigation, you must advance a certain sum. If the court ultimately convicts the perpetrator of stalking, the harasser must repay this amount.
Hire a lawyer
If you are a victim of persistent stalking, you can consult a lawyer for legal advice and guidance in the following steps. Our Criminal Law lawyers can assist you in this.
What do we do concretely?
- We assess your situation and the steps that may have already been taken.
- We prepare and file the complaint with the investigating judge.
- We defend your case in court.