When most people in Minnesota think of terrorism, they may not think about the activities of a person suffering from unrequited love. After all, movies and television have glamorized this type of behavior, portraying those who watch their crushes or their exes from a distance as romantic, even when they have been informed that the attention is unwanted. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, this activity is a federal crime in the United States.

Behaviors that may be considered stalking include following someone or waiting somewhere they are likely to be. Sending gifts or letters and making phone calls when they are unwelcome are also considered stalking under many circumstances. Starting a damaging rumor about a person is another form of stalking.

In addition to federal law, there are also state laws, which vary in the definition and penalties. According to Minnesota statutes, stalking may involve any conduct toward another that the instigator knows or should know causes fear, oppression or intimidation, or that leads the perceived victim to feel threatened or persecuted. Making a plan to hurt someone or damage personal property may obviously lead to emotional distress. But, it is also against state law to visit someone’s home, or call or send electronic messages persistently when that person has made it clear that these are unwelcome.

Whether or not a person is considered a victim of stalking is largely due to how he or she perceives behaviors such as those listed by state and federal law. Unfortunately, when a person is accused of stalking, he or she has the burden of proof rather than the accuser, and this may make innocent and harmless actions difficult to defend in court.

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