The Senate gave approval to House Bill 3286 on Tuesday, legislation that would increase the penalty for stalking from a misdemeanor to a felony while also providing a warning to those who are accused of stalking.
Authored by Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, the measure would increase the punishment from one year to up to three years in prison and increase the fine for stalking from $1,000 to up to $10,000. Additional punishment would be levied on the second or third offense.
“Oklahoma has the highest rate of domestic violence, including partner stalking, in the nation,” Bergstrom said. “Our state also ranks among the highest in the country for violent crimes, including third in the nation for the number of women killed in single victim homicide.
“We know stalking is strongly correlated with homicide and physical and emotional violence. In fact, 76 percent of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first as well as 85 percent of women who survived a murder attempt. This is a serious problem, and we must increase our stalking penalties to prevent this behavior from escalating to violent assaults, rape or murder.”
HB 3286 also requires law enforcement to provide a stalking warning letter to the accused when a complaint is made. This letter would be issued in the same manner as a victim protection order (VPO).
“The stalking warning letter has been implemented in other states, and the number of stalking cases were reduced significantly in those areas,” Bergstrom said. “My hope is that by passing this legislation we will have a similar reduction in the number of occurrences of stalking.”
The measure next moves to the House of Representatives for their final approval before heading to the governor’s desk.