Building Your Case

"Knowledge Is Power"

Knowledge of stalking can't be emphasized strongly enough. Hopefully by the time you have reached this section you have a better overall understanding of what stalking is and the devastation that it truly causes not only you, the victim, but family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Unfortunately for many victims, stalking begins long before you actually realize what has happened. "Most people don't realize it because they feel so helpless and vulnerable, but the letters and phone calls that come in the early stages of stalking are now a criminal offense," according to Linda Fairstein of the Manhattan District Attorney's Prosecution Unit. "Keep the tapes of the messages. Save the letters. Stalking generally escalates from there, and usually, it gets worse."

You may have received unwanted messages or even threats but you haven't taken them seriously or you have been intimidated into thinking that there wasn't anything you could do or that no one would believe you. You may have experienced minor vandalism but you felt that without proof of "who did it" you couldn't file a report. You may have made the mistake of confronting the stalker or you may have had other individuals try to intervene on your behalf, all to no avail.

Over and over victims state: "If I had only known what I could have done in the beginning. Why didn't someone tell me to start documenting and filing reports even if it was for documentation only? Every time I met with my stalker I honestly thought it would end, he kept telling me - just meet with me one last time and I'll leave you alone, I believed him. What would the police think if I told them I had met with my stalker? Would they understand or believe me why I did?"

At one time or another all victims have been faced with the aforementioned. Don't beat yourself up with the "what if I had done this or what if I had done that." Always remember you're not alone and that it's never ever too late to start documenting and filing the crucial police reports. Do it now - don't wait any longer.

Prosecuting stalking cases is often proving that a victim is being stalked. By legal definition, stalking requires a series of acts, and victims must be able to show this "course of conduct" or continuation of behavior. Therefore, you will need every scrap of evidence you can come up with. You can't wait for authorities to build your case; it's something that is often left up to you. Is it fair? No, but it's something that must be done. As a victim of stalking you'll have to do much of the case building and evidence collecting yourself. If you want the stalker incarcerated, you'll have to be willing to do a bit of work.

To make an arrest for stalking, police officers must have probable cause, or evidence, that the crime actually occurred, and as a stalking victim you must often supply this. This is not that difficult because, by the very nature of the crime, stalkers tend to leave a considerable amount of evidence behind, such as messages on answering machines, threatening letters, confrontations when other people are present, past criminal records, etc. Save and document everything for the police.

One of the hardest things for any victim to face is accepting the reality that you are being stalked and that it's virtually impossible to stop a stalker by yourself.

 

Documentation

 

No matter what book or article you read, or what victim or expert you speak with, in relation to stalking, the one thing you will hear from each and everyone is document, document, document.

Keep a log of the stalkers telephone calls and any encounters with the stalker, including dates, times, and witnesses to the encounters. In addition, save all answering machine tapes, notes and letters you have received from the stalker. Messages on an answering machine, text messages, faxes, letters, and even computer e-mail messages are all import in building a case.

Many cases are never prosecuted, for lack of evidence. Stalking situations often involve the victim's word against the suspect's and little evidence. The main thing is to call the police when things happen (no matter how minor it may seem) and to document everything.

Building a stalking case is very much like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.   In the end all the pieces of the puzzle will fit together.

The following are various ways that have helped victims, police, and prosecutors obtain a successful prosecution.

The Journal

Where do I start if I haven't kept a journal?

First try going back to the very first recollection you have of meeting your stalker. If your stalker is unknown, the following can also be applied.

Compile a chronological summary of events from that first day through the present. This doesn't have to be in great detail. A few short sentences that summarize the importance of that particular day or something that was said or done at a particular time. Try to keep it short and simple. No matter how minor you think a situation was or a comment that was made (even out of jest), write it down. You may start to see a set pattern develop. If you can't remember the exact date or the exact time estimate and make a note of it. Some victims have included the good times as well on a separate sheet to help them fit pieces of the puzzle together.

This journal will give you, the victim, an overall view of your stalking and may well bring to light various set patterns that you have overlooked. Also include any comments that other people have made about your stalker (family members, friends, co-workers) or observations.

Don't ever lie about or minimize your involvement with the stalker. If you lie, the police and prosecutors will not know what to believe when they find out the truth.

If you have had an intimate relationship with the stalker tell the officers.  If you've met with your stalker don't be afraid to admit it.  I haven't met a victim yet who at one time or another thought he/she could reason with their stalker. 

Recently a young victim, who had been terrorized and threatened for months, agreed to meet and sleep with her stalker prior to court. She was in fear for her life and knew if she didn't she would never see the courtroom again. She kept it to herself. When her stalkers defense attorney questioned her on the stand about the encounter, the prosecuting attorney was blindsided.

The police are there to help you. The prosecuting attorneys are there to prosecute. If you lie, fabricate, or hide relevant information such as this your jeopardizing the outcome of you're case and possibly your life.

There may come a time when your documentation will be introduced as evidence so be truthful.

Comments From Former Maricopa County Stalking Victims On Journals

  • Take several days to compile your journal if you haven't kept one in the past. You won't be able to remember everything in one night. When something pops in your head write it down. Don't worry what order you have it in at the time. Go back later and put it in the proper order according to the dates and times. Continually update your journal whenever you think of something and don't be surprised if it's days, weeks, or even months later when you remember various instances. Enlist the help of friends or family members to see if they can remember anything that could be of value.

  • Carry a small cassette tape recorder in your car. There were so many times, when I was driving in my car, that I would see something that instantly reminded me of something that I had forgotten about. I couldn't write and drive at the same time so I used my recorder.  My tape recorder became my best friend. I paid $9.95 for mine. Small price to pay when it came to proving my case in court.

  • There were so many small things happening to me.   I had totally convinced myself that none of these things would be relevant but I still documented everything (I do mean everything). In the end my journal proved to be one of the most important items in the prosecution of my stalker.  It showed the police, the prosecutor, the jury and myself what was really happening. It did help prove my case. Was my journal worth the time I put into it? Absolutely.

  • My final draft put me in shock. Why didn't I ever see what was happening? If nothing else it woke me up. My recommendation to any victim of harassment or stalking is even if you feel you're not ready to file reports (like I did) -- write it down, read and re-read your journal. Let other people read it and listen to their views objectively. It gave me the confidence and courage to start filing reports. I found out it wasn't my imagination nor was I causing the situation. For weeks I had focused on one or two major issues and ignored the small ones. When my journal was complete I then saw the whole picture. The pieces to my puzzle finally put my stalker in jail.

  • When I finally got the courage to share and talk about my situation with my family and I would hear them make a remark on something that they remembered, it went in my journal. It wasn't until I almost lost my life that I realized that the jokes my stalker had made in the past weren't jokes. I am a survivor who never thought his jokes meant anything until he ran me off the road, over a small embankment. One thing he always joked about was how funny it would be to see me hanging over a cliff with me begging for his help and forgiveness. I know this wasn't a cliff but it was close enough for me. Listen and be aware of things that have been said to you - document, document, document and file police reports.

  • When my stalker was finally charged with stalking and I met with the person doing the pre-sentence investigation I was asked to give a general background. I not only had copies of the reports that had been filed but a copy of my journal with me. When I found out it could be given to the judge to read I was overwhelmed. It did scare me to find out that his defense attorney would get a copy but it was ok. Everything I had journalized had happened and I had nothing to hide. Between my journal and the police reports I had it gave a complete, simplified background on the stalking right down to the smallest "unexplained vandalism" to my car and the threats I continually received. I wish I could have seen the look on my stalkers face when his attorney confronted him. 

  • I spent weeks keeping my journal up to date even when I became frustrated, angry and depressed. The only way I saw out was to relocate but I couldn't afford it. It wasn't until sentencing that the full impact and the full importance of my journal hit me. Two days before court I went through and highlighted everything I wanted to tell the judge and to try and make him understand what hell I had lived through. I was scared to death but without my journal I would have been a blundering fool. My stalkers family had no prior knowledge what had been done to me. After I had my turn to speak in court and my stalker was sentenced members of his family came over to me to apologize saying how sorry they were that they didn't have any idea what I had gone through. Please tell victims for me that journals do play a big part when your in the nightmare game of stalking (don't every look at stalking as a game, I'm using it only as a figure of speech). For me it was the bottom of the ninth inning, bases loaded, two outs, score tied, 3 balls and 2 strikes. I hit my grand slam against my stalker --so can you!

  • When I started compiling my journal it scared me to death. Everything jumped out at me in black and white. Things that I had told myself for weeks, that I thought were nothing, all fell together. It was like dumping a bucket of ice water over me. Why hadn't I written things down before? When I saw it in writing I knew I needed help from the police, it was far beyond my control. My advise to anyone being harassed or stalked. Don't wait, document - document - document. File the reports, prosecute and don't back down under any circumstance.

The journal can be a very valuable tool in prosecution. Keep it up to date and in a secure place.  Always keep a duplicate copy of the journal in the event the original journal turns up missing.

 

Documenting Phone Calls and Messages

Keep an accurate log of the telephone calls received!

 

The weapon of choice used by many stalkers is the telephone. Chances are you have been bombarded daily with hang up calls, harassing phone calls, text messages, e-mails and possibly threats.   Telephone harassment and threats are a crime.

 

Calls You Have Answered

If you answer the phone, then realize it is your stalker, immediately hang up. There are times the stalker spurts out a quick sentence or two before you hang up. You won't have time to record so try and remember exactly what was said and the tone of voice the stalker used. Document the date, the time, and the number the call was received on (home/work/cell phone), also record the incoming number if you have Caller ID or if you have used *69. Write down everything that was said.

Messages Left On Your Answering Machine

First and foremost, save the message. If you have a speaker phone transfer the message to a tape recorder and make a second tape for your records. Victims have found it very helpful to transcribe the message(s) before the police arrive to take your report. Always keep a copy of the tape and transcript for your records. When the officer responds to your call, have him/her listen to the message(s) on your answering machine, give the officer one of the tapes and a copy of the transcripts to be entered into evidence. If it is a life-threatening message always call 911 immediately.

If you do not have access to a speakerphone or tape recorder transcribe the message(s). Have the officer listen to the message and enter your transcript as evidence. Be sure to date and sign  the transcript. Remember to always keep a copy for your records.

Caller ID

With Caller ID you're able to capture incoming call information; name and number, date and time, whether or not you answer the call.

This can prove very valuable and is certainly worth the investment not only for documentation but it allows you to know who is calling at all times. Caller ID units range in price. Monthly cost for the service is approximately $5.00.

Again, document the calls.

In addition to using caller ID victims also use *57 Call Trace as an additional means of documentation (refer to *57 below).

Caller ID with Privacy +

When calls come in, Caller ID with Privacy + lets callers know that you do not accept unidentified calls. And to complete the call, the caller is required to identify themselves, by either stating their name or unblocking their number. Only then will your phone ring and you can decide if you want to answer now or let the call go to your answering system. Even if you don't have an answering system, it's no problem, because Privacy + screens "Blocked" or "Unidentified" calls prior to ringing your phone.

 

*69  Last Call Return Service

The *69 capability is already programmed on your phone line, so you can use it any time. The average cost is $.75 per use and after using Last Call Return eight times in a month, there is no charge for the remainder of the month. Check with your local provider for actual charge as the cost per call may vary.

When you press *69 you will hear an audio message telling you the number of who just called. Document the call on your log sheet. Under no circumstance should you return the call.

Many stalkers use payphones or blocked phones. In this event you will not be able to obtain the number.

Contact your local telephone company to verify the last call return code for your area.

*57  Call Trace

Call Trace will help you get assistance. It traces the phone number of the caller and turns that number over to your providers Call Identification Center. If requested, deterrent action may be taken or your local law enforcement agency may become involved.

Call Trace is simple to use. If you have answered the incoming call, simply hang up. Lift the receiver, listen for the dial tone, and press *57. If the call was not answered, immediately lift the receiver, listen for the dial tone and press *57. Follow the recorded instructions. The number will be forwarded and recorded at the Call Identification Center. Under normal circumstances, three successful traces are required before any deterrent action is taken by your carrier or your local law enforcement agency. Under no circumstances will you be given the name or number of the caller.  Contact your local provider for further information.

Deterrent Actions: You have three options. (1) After three successful traces you can request that your provider contact the customer using the phone number with a verbal warning or (2) your provider can send a letter of warning that the calls have been traced and that legal action may pursue or (3) you can contact your local police department for legal action.

Caution - Let the police make the contact. Any warnings from the phone company could cause your stalker to retaliate, putting you in more danger.

Always dial 911 in an emergency situation.

Cost for Call Trace in Arizona is $2.00 per call. There is no charge if the call cannot be traced. Check with your local provider as the cost per call may vary.

There are times when a call cannot be traced. In this event contact your providers Annoyance Call Bureau and request a trap be put on your phone. Some providers will do this in two-week increments. For a longer period of time a court order will be needed. Your local police department can help you with this.

Cellular Phone

These records have the advantage of listing all numbers, both outgoing and incoming calls. Again, document these calls on your telephone log.

Always retain the original for your records. A copy can be given to the police department as evidence.

Cellular Text Messages

Save the text message(s) on your phone!!!  Some providers allow you to access the messages via the net and print them out.  If possible, print them out but be sure to save the message on your cell phone. If this service is not available or for additional evidence, simply take a photo of the text message.  Be sure to document and file a police report. AND keep a copy for your records.

Voice Mail Messages / Messages Left On Pagers

Keep the original message on the voice mail and let the police listen to it. Using a speakerphone, make a copy of the message left with a tape recorder and transcribe the message(s). This tape and transcript can then be turned over to the police as evidence. In addition, make an extra copy for your records. This procedure is extremely useful with messages that have been left on voice mail systems. Many stalkers fail to realize that pager messages can be recorded simply by using a speakerphone.

Pages

Anytime you receive a page from an unknown person on your pager, record the telephone number, date and time.  If you returned the call, document what was said.. Be cautious in returning any phone call when you do not know the number. A very common "annoyance" that stalkers use is to send you phony pages to return calls to people you don't know. Another thing to keep in mind - the stalker may page you with numbers where he is. A very easy way for him to say later "she was the one calling me."  Keep documenting!!

Hang Up Calls

If you don't have Caller ID utilize, *69 or *57. Be sure to document and record all hang up calls including date, time and number. Set patterns can develop.  Be sure to document the hang up calls on your call log.

Pay Phones

Many stalkers will call from pay phones. Most pay phones will show the number on Caller ID's. However, if you attempt to call the number back the recorded messages will usually say that this number can not be called at this time. Again, do not call a number if you do not know who it is. *69 (Last Call Return) may or may not be able to give you the number. What can you do in this instance? Document the call (date, time, and number).

Several victims have taken the time to locate all the pay phones within a 1-3 mile radius of their home and/or office. They wrote down the pay phone number and location. When they received a call from a pay phone they were then able to determine where the stalker was at that given moment.

Recently a victim told us a story how her stalker continually called her from various pay phones, leaving long messages on her answering machine. She had taken the time to locate various pay phones in her area. The call she got one Sunday morning put her stalker in jail. He had called. The caller ID gave the number of the pay phone. While he was leaving his "long winded message", she was on her cell phone to the police department giving them his exact location. The stalker was within 1 mile of her home. Knowing that a warrant was out for his arrest, officers were dispatched immediately. Within minutes her stalker was in custody. Was it worth her time to locate pay phones?

 

Additional Ways To Document

 

E-mail

Save it on your computer and print out a copy.

U.S. Mail / Express Mail

If you received personal mail at home, your post office box, or at your place of employment that is unfamiliar to you or you do not recognize the handwriting on the envelope be cautious when opening it. Carefully pull the contents out of the envelope by a small portion of the inside corner. Try not to get your fingerprints on it. If it is from your stalker put it in a paper bag and file a report.

Pictures

To help build the case against your stalker take pictures of any vandalism, no matter how minor. Remember this could be as minor as trampled flowers in your yard.

If anything from flowers to dead animals are left on your car or at your front door take pictures.

If your being followed by your stalker or if your stalker is parked outside your home or office take a picture.

If you decided to use a camera, use extreme caution and under no circumstance compromise your safety.

Flower Deliveries

If you have received flowers from a florist immediately call the floral shop. Ask who placed the order, when, and how it was paid for (cash or credit card). Try to obtain a description of the person who placed the order. Ask if the establishment has surveillance equipment if the order was placed in person. Take a picture of the flowers for your records. Keep the card or any other messages left with the delivery.

Unwanted Gifts

Again, take pictures for your documentation. If the gifts were delivered to you follow the same procedure as flower deliveries.

Handling Evidence

You should handle anything received from your stalker carefully so you do not smear fingerprints. These prints can help prove later in court who was doing the stalking. "Don't do like the police detective on television or in the movies do by picking up items with a handkerchief." This will smear fingerprints just as easily as using your bare hand.

Pick up papers by the corners and object(s) by rough parts that likely couldn't contain fingerprints. Put everything received in paper bags.

Many victims carry small paper bags (lunch bags) in their glove compartment or purse as it's very common to find letters, etc. left on the car window during working hours or after the victim returns back to the car from a brief shopping trip.

Obtaining Information On Your Stalker

Far too often, a look in into the past actions of a stalker can be a frightening glimpse into how the present stalking will end.

Many stalkers have a "colorful" past without anyone ever realizing it. Your stalker could easily have numerous prior misdemeanors ranging from harassment to criminal damage, to disorderly conduct to prior felony charges.

Unfortunately the police and prosecutors don't have the time to do complete background checks so guess who gets left with the responsibility? You guessed it - you! Prosecutors are mainly interested in prior felonies that have been committed within the last ten years by your stalker.

Although the majority of the information you maybe able to obtain will not be related to your case, it will give you valuable leads and show repeated patterns established by your stalker. It is definitely is worth your time and effort.

Some victims are aware that there could be a "colorful past" as the stalker will often joke about prior problems such as "I got pulled over for a DUI but I got out of it" or "yea, I punched this guy one time in a bar and someone called the cops" or "my ex-wife or my former girlfriend put a restraining order on me."  If you know the city it was filed in, it's very easy to obtain a copy of the police report or copies of a restraining order.   Be sure to find out the final disposition of the case.  You might be surprised what you uncover.

 

Ways To Obtain Information

 

Maricopa Superior Court Web Site (City Courts and Justice Courts can also be accessed)

Go to:    http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov

There are numerous websites that can connect you to court records in almost every city across the US.

 

Don't Forget

If you get a lead from a friend or former friend on your stalker, check it out!!!!!!

If you find a report, request a copy and find out the final disposition of the case.

Private Investigators can also be used.

 

Report Log

 

Following is an example of an easy method to keep track of reports that you have already filed or reports that you may file in the future with your local police department(s).  Keep it up to date!

In addition, if you are aware of any other complaints, and/or charges that have been filed against your stalker (related or non-related to your case) be sure to list those.

It is also advisable to give a copy of your report log to the responding officer each and every time a report is made. This will aid the officer in writing your report and an excellent way to keep the prosecuting attorney up to date on reports filed.  If your case has been turned over to a prosecuting attorney fax a copy to his office each and every time a new report is taken.

The more information you can give to an officer, the easier it is for them to understand the circumstances and prosecute.

 

Sample - Report Log

Your Name                                                                                                                Harasser / Stalkers Name

                                                                                                                                                     Stalkers Address (if known)

                                                                                                                               Stalkers Telephone Number(s) (if known)

                                                                                                                                               Date Of Birth & SS# (if known)

 

DATE

REPORT NUMBER

CITY

TYPE OF REPORT

REPORTING

OFFICER

BADGE

NUMBER

10/03/06

XXXXXXX

Phoenix

Order of Protection Served (non-related to my case)

 

 

11/11/06

XXXXXXX

Mesa

Harassment (non-related to my case)

J. Doe

XXX

2/01/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Annoying Phone Calls

J. Doe

XXX

3/03/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Harassment

J. Doe

XXX

3/04/07

XXXXXXX

Mesa

Annoying Phone Calls

J. Doe

XXX

3/05/07

XXXXXXX

Mesa

Criminal Damage

J. Doe

XXX

3/08/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Threats

J. Doe

XXX

3/09/07

XXXXXXX

Tucson

Disorderly Conduct (non-related to my case)

Unknown

Unknown

3/14/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Injunction Against Harassment Served

 

 

4/18/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Interfering With Judicial Proceedings

J. Doe

XXX

5/08/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Interfering With Judicial Proceedings

J. Doe

XXX

5/12/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Threats

J. Doe

6/01/07

XXXXXXX

Chandler

Stalking

J. Doe

XXX

6/25/07

 

Chandler

Warrant Issued

 

 

6/29/07

 

Phoenix

Arrest Made

 

 

Most Common Types Of Reports That Will Be Filed - Arizona Statutes

13-1201  Endangerment

13-1202  Threatening Or Intimidating

13-1203  Assault

13-1303  Unlawful Imprisonment

13-1502  Criminal Trespass Third Degree

13-1503  Criminal Trespass Second Degree

13-1504  Criminal Trespass First Degree

13-1602  Criminal Damage

13-2810  Interfering With Judicial Proceedings

13-2916  Use Of Telephone to Terrify, Intimidate, Threaten, Harass, Annoy Or Offend

13-2921  Harassment

13-2921.01  Aggravated Harassment

13-2923  Stalking

End Stalking In America, Inc.

endstalking@aol.com

 

Disclaimer: This site is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or mental advice. Professionals should be contacted for all legal advice, mental and threat assessments.


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Evolution of E.S.I.A. - "My Story"      Firearms-Personal Protection     State Stalking Laws    Recommended Reading

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