Wisconsin law catches up to technology, expanding the definition of stalking to include texts and social media

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)- A Wisconsin law is finally catching up with technology. It expands the definition of stalking. 

When COVID-19 closed down court rooms, the criminal justice system went on-line.  Now prosecutorcan use some of the same technology to charge suspects using it to harass and scare their victims. “Almost every stalking case includes some form of electronic communication. That’s just how we communicate.”, says La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke.

A new Wisconsin law expands the definition of stalking to include sending text message and social media messages and posts to their intended victim, as well as the victim’s family, friends, and co-workers. “These days it seems like one of the ways to hurt people is to put things out there when you know they will see it; embarrassing photographs, things that are meant to harass people. That is now illegal.”, says Gruenke who charges roughly 50 suspects with stalking each year.  “It does reach a point where it can overtake your life. You’re constantly on the look out for the person sending you a message that is threatening or embarrassing.”, says Gruenke.

Victim advocates expect the new law will lead to more arrests and needed justice for victims, who until now, could do little to stop harassment on-line. “It means a lot, just because it can be hard to prove some of our stalking cases.”, says New Horizons Lead Crisis Advocate Sherri Larsen.

Under Wisconsin law, stalking is a felony punishable by up to three and a half years behind bars.