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O’Fallon proposes city code amendments covering stalking, harassment

State laws pertaining to the offenses of stalking, harassment and cyber-harassment have changed. City staff has recommended that O’Fallon’s city code be revised to match applicable state laws, to provide O’Fallon residents with the maximum protection from such conduct.

Mayor Bill Hennessy sponsored Bill No. 7272, proposing those amendments to city code Section 215.  The bill was given a first reading at the council meeting on Dec. 10. If normal process and timing are followed, the bill will be given a second reading and vote for passage at the council meeting on Jan. 14.

If the amendments are approved, the code would define and outline a course of conduct, emotional distress, stalking and harassment.

“Course of conduct” is a pattern of conduct composed of two or more acts, which may include communication by any means, over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of course of conduct. Such constitutionally protected activity includes picketing or other organized protests.

“Emotional distress” is something markedly greater than the level of uneasiness, nervousness, unhappiness, or the like which are commonly experienced in day-to-day living.

As used in the code, stalking “disturbs,” meaning to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that serves no legitimate purpose and that would cause a reasonable person under the circumstances to be frightened, intimidated, or emotionally distressed.

A person commits the offense of stalking if he or she purposely, through his or her course of conduct, disturbs, or follows with the intent to disturb another person. This will not apply to activities of federal, state, county, or municipal law enforcement officers conducting investigations of any violation of federal, state, county, or municipal law.

A person commits the offense of harassment if he or she, without good cause, engages in any act with the purpose to cause emotional distress to another person.

The offenses of stalking and harassment will be a city ordinance violation, punishable with a fine of up to $500, up to 3 months imprisonment, or both fine and imprisonment.

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