Stalking by telephone legality heard by Minnesota Court of Appeals
The legality of Minn. Stat. § 609.749.2(4) (Stalking by Telephone) was recently decided by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The case arose from a conflict beginning in 2016 between a Minnesota man and the Rice County Sherriff’s Office. The Defendant in the case was upset about a former interaction with the Sheriff and began calling and leaving threatening voicemails with several Rice County employees. The “hostile” and “threatening” calls continued for months, resulting in concern for the personal safety of the employees.
The Defendant was charged with two counts of Felony Stalking by telephone and was eventually found guilty following a jury trial. On appeal, the Defendant argued that the statute itself was unconstitutionally overbroad. Meaning that while it did prohibit stalking, it also prohibited a substantial amount of First Amendment-protected speech. The Court effectively invalidated the entire statute and reversed the decision of the lower court.
Because the Court determined the statute to be unconstitutional, there isn’t much standing in the way of telephone stalking. Until new legislation is passed with more restrictive stalking language, there could be a new wave of telephone stalking that goes unchecked. Additionally, individuals with pending stalking charges have the opportunity to avoid a stalking conviction on their record.