Recent Case:  Respondent’s conduct did not rise to the level of stalking to support an order of protection.

Respondent appeals from the judgment of the trial court granting a full order of protection in favor of Petitioner.  Respondent argues the trial court erred in granting a full order of protection under Section 455.040 because Petitioner failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence that Respondent’s actions constituted “stalking” under Section 455.010(13).

Holding:  Reversed

Because of the potential stigma that may attach to an individual who is labeled a “stalker” under the Missouri Adult Abuse Act, trial courts must exercise great care to ensure sufficient evidence exists to support all elements of the statute before entering a full order of protection.

Section 455.010(13) defines “stalking” as:

When any person purposely and repeatedly engages in an unwanted course of conduct that causes alarm to another person when it is reasonable in that person’s situation to have been alarmed by the conduct.  As used in this subdivision:) “Alarm” means to cause fear of danger of physical harm;

(a)   “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of repeated acts over a period of time, however short, that serves no legitimate purpose. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to, following the other person or unwanted communication or unwanted contact; and

(b) “Repeated” means two or more incidents evidencing a continuity of purpose.

Here, Respondent did not threaten any physical harm in the text messages. While he did attempt to summon Petitioner to his house in the middle of the night by getting her to deliver a pizza to him at 1:53 a.m., there is no evidence he did anything to cause Petitioner to fear physical harm. Also, in a videotaping incident, Respondent did not do anything to cause Petitioner to fear physical harm. Thus, the Court found it was not reasonable for Petitioner to fear she was in danger of physical harm based upon Respondent’s pattern of behavior. While his behavior was certainly unwanted and inappropriate, it does not amount to stalking, which is at issue here.

Missouri Court of Appeals

Eastern District

ED101701

Filed May 19, 2015