Michigan Statutory Civil Law

  1. Civil Stalking Laws

    1. Introduction

      A WMC victim may maintain a civil action for damages, costs, and fees incurred as a result of the stalking conduct of another, as defined in MCL § 750.411h. A victim may maintain an action whether or not the perpetrator has been charged or convicted for the alleged criminal violation. A victim of stalking may also obtain a personal protection order.

    2. Text of Statute(s)

      1. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.411h - Stalking; definitions; violation, penalties; probation, terms, conditions; evidence, rebuttable presumption; penalty additional

        (1) As used in this section:
        (a) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of 2 or more separate noncontinuous acts evidencing a continuity of purpose.
        (b) “Emotional distress” means significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.
        (c) “Harassment” means conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress. Harassment does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.
        (d) “Stalking” means a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.
        (e) “Unconsented contact” means any contact with another individual that is initiated or continued without that individual's consent or in disregard of that individual's expressed desire that the contact be avoided or discontinued. Unconsented contact includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:
        (i) Following or appearing within the sight of that individual.
        (ii) Approaching or confronting that individual in a public place or on private property.
        (iii) Appearing at that individual's workplace or residence.
        (iv) Entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.
        (v) Contacting that individual by telephone.
        (vi) Sending mail or electronic communications to that individual.
        (vii) Placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.
        (f) “Victim” means an individual who is the target of a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment.
        (2) An individual who engages in stalking is guilty of a crime as follows:
        (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for no more than one year, a fine of no more than $1,000.00, or both.
        (b) If the victim was less than 18 years of age at any time during the individual's course of conduct and the individual is five or more years older than the victim, a felony punishable by imprisonment for no more than five years, a fine of no more than $10,000.00, or both.
        (3) The court may place an individual convicted of violating this section on probation for a term of no more than five years. If a term of probation is ordered, the court may, in addition to any other lawful condition of probation, order the defendant to do any of the following:
        (a) Refrain from stalking any individual during the term of probation.
        (b) Refrain from having any contact with the victim of the offense.
        (c) Be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling and if, determined appropriate by the court, to receive psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling at his or her own expense.
        (4) In a prosecution for a violation of this section, evidence that the defendant continued to engage in a course of conduct involving repeated unconsented contact with the victim after having been requested by the victim to discontinue the same or a different form of unconsented contact, and to refrain from any further unconsented contact with the victim, gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that the continuation of the course of conduct caused the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.
        (5) A criminal penalty provided for under this section may be imposed in addition to any penalty that may be imposed for any other criminal offense arising from the same conduct or for any contempt of court arising from the same conduct.
      2. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.411i - Aggravated stalking; course of conduct; violation, penalties; probation; rebuttable presumption

        (1) As used in this section:
        (a) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of 2 or more separate noncontinuous acts evidencing a continuity of purpose.
        (b) “Credible threat” means a threat to kill another individual or a threat to inflict physical injury upon another individual that is made in any manner or in any context that causes the individual hearing or receiving the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of another individual.
        (c) “Emotional distress” means significant mental suffering or distress that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling.
        (d) “Harassment” means conduct directed toward a victim that includes, but is not limited to, repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable individual to suffer emotional distress and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress. Harassment does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.
        (e) “Stalking” means a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.
        (f) “Unconsented contact” means any contact with another individual that is initiated or continued without that individual's consent or in disregard of that individual's expressed desire that the contact be avoided or discontinued. Unconsented contact includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:
        (i) Following or appearing within the sight of that individual.
        (ii) Approaching or confronting that individual in a public place or on private property.
        (iii) Appearing at that individual's workplace or residence.
        (iv) Entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.
        (v) Contacting that individual by telephone.
        (vi) Sending mail or electronic communications to that individual.
        (vii) Placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by that individual.
        (g) “Victim” means an individual who is the target of a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment.
        (2) An individual who engages in stalking is guilty of aggravated stalking if the violation involves any of the following circumstances:
        (a) At least one of the actions constituting the offense is in violation of a restraining order and the individual has received actual notice of that restraining order or at least one of the actions is in violation of an injunction or preliminary injunction.
        (b) At least one of the actions constituting the offense is in violation of a condition of probation, a condition of parole, a condition of pretrial release, or a condition of release on bond pending appeal.
        (c) The course of conduct includes the making of one or more credible threats against the victim, a member of the victim's family, or another individual living in the same household as the victim.
        (d) The individual has been previously convicted of a violation of this section or section 411h.1.
        (3) Aggravated stalking is a felony punishable as follows:
        (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), by imprisonment for no more than five years, a fine of no more than $10,000.00, or both.
        (b) If the victim was less than 18 years of age at any time during the individual's course of conduct and the individual is five or more years older than the victim, by imprisonment for no more than ten years, a fine of no more than $15,000.00, or both.
        (4) The court may place an individual convicted of violating this section on probation for any term of years, but no less than five years. If a term of probation is ordered, the court may, in addition to any other lawful condition of probation, order the defendant to do any of the following:
        (a) Refrain from stalking any individual during the term of probation.
        (b) Refrain from any contact with the victim of the offense.
        (c) Be evaluated to determine the need for psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling and, if determined appropriate by the court, to receive psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling at his or her own expense.
        (5) In a prosecution for a violation of this section, evidence that the defendant continued to engage in a course of conduct involving repeated unconsented contact with the victim after having been requested by the victim to discontinue the same or a different form of unconsented contact, and to refrain from any further unconsented contact with the victim, gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that the continuation of the course of conduct caused the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.
        (6) A criminal penalty provided for under this section may be imposed in addition to any penalty that may be imposed for any other criminal offense arising from the same conduct or for contempt of court arising from the same conduct.
      3. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 600.2954 - Stalking or aggravated stalking; civil actions; damages

        (1) A victim may maintain a civil action against an individual who engages in conduct that is prohibited under section 411h or 411i of the Michigan penal code, Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931, being sections 750.411h and 750.411i of the Michigan Compiled Laws, for damages incurred by the victim as a result of that conduct. A victim may also seek and be awarded exemplary damages, costs of the action, and reasonable attorney fees in an action brought under this section.
        (2) A civil action may be maintained under subsection (1) whether or not the individual who is alleged to have engaged in conduct prohibited under section 411h or 411i of Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931 has been charged or convicted under section 411h or 411i of Act No. 328 of the Public Acts of 1931 for the alleged violation.
        (3) As used in this section, “victim” means that term as defined in section 411h of Act No. 328 of 60the Public Acts of 1931.
    3. Cases

      1. Armstrong v. Shirvell, 596 Fed. Appx. 433 (6th Cir. 2015)

        • Procedural Posture: Defendant appealed jury verdict finding him liable for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and stalking against plaintiff.
        • Law: Stalking (also: defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress)
        • Facts: Plaintiff was elected president to University of Michigan student counsel. Defendant began an online campaign against plaintiff after learning plaintiff was openly gay, including posts on his own Facebook page, a Facebook “fan page,” and a blog. The Defendant also posted flyers around campus and tracked down the plaintiff’s residence, making an appearance at a party and another time protesting along the street. Defendant also followed plaintiff to two events on campus within the same day, heckled him and took pictures of him at a rally, and attending a birthday party—uninvited—after learning that plaintiff would be there.
        • Outcome: The court affirmed the lower court’s decision to submit the stalking claim to the jury, finding sufficient repeated or continuing unconsented contact sufficient to sustain a stalking claim.
        • Special Notes: N/a
           
      2. Pobursky v. Gee, 640 N.W.2d 597 (Mich. Ct. App. 2001)

        • Procedural Posture: Appeal of protection order (PPO) obtained by Petitioner after allegedly being assaulted by Respondent.
        • Law: civil stalking laws; personal protection orders.
        • Facts: Respondent attacked petitioner at ice arena, allegedly throwing him over a bench into a wall, choking him repeatedly while threatening him. Respondent moved to terminate the PPO alleging the grounds were insufficient because of single, isolated incidents did not constitute stalking. Trial court found the conduct alleged was sufficient to justify the order. Respondent appealed.
        • Outcome: PPO reversed; the court found that a series of acts immediately following the other were not “separate and noncontinuous” as required by the statute.
           
      3. Hayford v. Hayford, 760 N.W.2d 503 (Mich. Ct. App. 2008)

        • Procedural Posture: Father appealed PPO granted by the Family Division against him at request of his child.
        • Law: civil stalking; personal protection order.
        • Facts: Child filed for PPO against father; father continued to place telephone calls to petitioner, show up at petitioner’s school, visit the hospital where petitioner had surgery, contact petitioner’s physician, and placed an ad about petitioner containing personal information in newspapers. Respondent argued there were insufficient acts of stalking or harassment to justify a PPO.
        • Outcome: The appellate court found that the trial court did not err in finding there were sufficient acts of harassment and petitioner experienced emotional distress sufficient to uphold the PPO.
        • Special Notes: There must be two or more acts of unconsented contact that cause the victim to suffer emotional distress and that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress; the statute does not require a showing of fear.
           
    4. Practice Pointers

      • To obtain a civil stalking order, the victim and respondent need not have had a past relationship (contrast to Personal Protection orders brought under MCL 600.2950, which require a current or former spouse, dating relationship, or housemate)
      • In order to obtain a personal protection order, petitioner must allege the facts that constitute stalking; respondent need not be restrained or charged with stalking.
         
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