Why was California’s original stalking statute revised?
California’s original stalking law was passed in 1990. In the years following, the law was repeatedly revised. These revisions were made because the law was seen as being insufficiently broad and tough. In other words, it was too easy for people to find loopholes in the law and, even if offenders were convicted, the punishments were too light.
The original statute passed in California defined stalking as the willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassing of another person. This had to be combined with a credible threat that the stalker would do serious bodily harm to the victim or would kill the victim. The threat had to be made by a person who intended to carry out the threat and appeared to have the ability to do so. A first offense was only a misdemeanor and a second offense could be a misdemeanor as well.
It soon became clear that this law was not really strong enough to cover all of the behaviors that most people would define as stalking. It was also clear that the punishments were weak. Because of this, the law was repeatedly changed to increase the range of behaviors that would be defined as stalking and to make the punishments more severe.