When the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, it provided the federal government with the ability to investigate certain cases of domestic violence, as well as to prosecute the offenders. One instance in which the federal government possesses jurisdiction over a domestic violence crime is if interstate stalking is involved. In 1996, interstate stalking laws were instated, which made it a federal crime to enter into another state with the intention to harm or torment an intimate partner.
In an individual threatens their intimate partner during interstate travel or partakes in interstate travel in order to harm their partner, and then the perpetrator is responsible for interstate stalking. If an offender causes physical injury to an intimate partner or to the victim’s immediate family, then the perpetrator can be prosecuted by the federal government for interstate stalking. In order to be charged with stalking, the perpetrator must possess the intent to harm, threaten, scare, or harass the victim.
If an offender deliberately causes their intimate partner to fear death or bodily harm while crossing state lines, then they are taking part in interstate stalking. This legislation maintains a very specific notion of what constitutes an intimate partner. An intimate partner is defined as a current spouse, a former spouse, or individuals who parented a child together.
If an individual is not living with their boyfriend or their girlfriend, then they are not considered to be intimate partners, and are therefore not accountable under federal interstate stalking legislation. The term immediate family is used in order to refer to a child, spouse, brother, sister, or parent. It may also include any other blood relative or marriage relation that is residing in the same home as the offender.
The interstate stalking legislation also specifies forced travel as a federal crime. If an individual forces their intimate partner to enter into another state through the use of coercion, violence, fraud, or threats, they can be prosecuted by the federal government for stalking. In order for an offender to be charged with this crime, the victim must have sustained physical injury. In instances such as this, the intention of the perpetrator does not need to be ascertained.
However, the victim will have to verify that the offender used a force or coercion in order to compel the victim to cross state lines. During the impelled journey, the perpetrator must have deliberately utilized violence which caused their intimate partner to sustain physical injury. An individual who has forced their intimate partner to cross state lines and who has subjected their victim to bodily harm during this travel may be charged with stalking.
This legislation also makes in a federal crime to cross state lines with the intention of breaching a restraining order by contacting, harassing, threatening, or injuring the victim. For the offender to be charged with a federal crime, evidence must be displayed that illustrates the perpetrators intent to violate the restraining order. The penalties for these crimes vary based on the injury that the victim sustains. The punishment may range from five year for physical harm, to life in prison if the victim is killed.