Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

What is Vonnie’s Law?

  • Criminal Defense

In Colorado, criminal stalking is defined by law as predatory behavior that is substantially more serious than merely “bothering” another person. If you are charged with stalking in or near the greater Denver area, the first thing that you must do is to contact a Denver stalking attorney.

Stalking laws in Colorado were revised in 2012 with the passage of “Vonnie’s Law.” Who was Vonnie? What are the provisions of Vonnie’s Law, and what should you do if you face a stalking charge under Vonnie’s Law? When should you contact a Denver stalking lawyer?

If you will keep reading this brief discussion of stalking in Colorado, Vonnie’s Law, and your rights, you’ll find answers to these questions, but if you are personally facing a stalking charge, now or in the future, you also must have the advice and services of a Denver stalking attorney.

How Prevalent is Stalking?

The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) reports that over six million people are stalked every year in the United States, including one in six women and one in nineteen men.

Stalking and domestic violence frequently overlap. The NCVC also found that 41 percent of male stalking victims and 66 percent of female stalking victims are stalked by a current or former intimate partner.

And a survey conducted by the National Institute of Justice, an agency of the U.S. Justice Department, found that over 80 percent of the women who were stalked by a current or former husband or cohabitating partner were also physically assaulted by that same partner.

What is and is Not Considered Stalking?

In order to be convicted of stalking in Colorado, the law requires not only a credible threat but also repeated behavior that would cause a reasonable person to be fearful or to feel emotional distress.

Stalking does not have to take place in person. Someone can be stalked with phone calls, text messages, emails, and on social media. However, in Colorado, it is not considered stalking if:

  1. You threatened a person only one time.
  2. Your threat wasn’t credible.
  3. A reasonable individual wouldn’t have been distressed or fearful.
  4. The “victim” was not distressed or fearful.

You may potentially be guilty of another crime if you threatened a person only one time and your threat was not credible, but that action does not meet Colorado’s legal definition of stalking.

Who Was Vonnie Flores?

Teaching assistant Vonnie Flores, with her husband and two children, lived next door to Anthony Medina in Leadville. Medina became obsessed with Vonnie Flores and began watching and following her. Once he even followed her on a shopping trip to Frisco, thirty miles away.

Medina’s obsession continued over several years, but Vonnie laughed it off and believed that Medina was harmless. That changed one day when Medina followed her as she was bicycling, and he suddenly appeared in front of her, startling her as she was pushing her bike up a steep hill.

She filed a report with the Leadville Police Department. Medina was arrested and released on bail hours later. A restraining order was issued, and Medina was ordered to appear in court. Four days before Medina was scheduled to appear in court, Vonnie decided to run a quick errand.

On her return, Vonnie was not even out of the car when Medina confronted her in her driveway and shot her in the head. Medina then took his own life. Two years later, lawmakers in Colorado responded to this tragedy by passing Vonnie’s Law.

What Does Vonnie’s Law Require?

Before Vonnie’s Law went into effect, stalking suspects in Colorado were allowed to post bail immediately after they were booked. Vonnie’s Law prevents suspects who have been arrested and charged with stalking from posting bail without first appearing before a Colorado judge.

Until a judge sees and questions the suspect, the suspect remains in jail and away from potential victims. At the bail hearing, the judge will issue a protection order and explain how it works, and the suspect must sign a document verifying that he or she understands the bail conditions.

How Are Stalking Convictions Penalized?

Even without a credible threat, if the conduct is repeated and causes emotional distress, a suspect may be charged with and convicted of stalking, a felony in Colorado. A first offense is a Class 5 felony, and a first stalking conviction may be penalized with prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

But if you stalk someone in violation of a protection order, or if you are charged with a second or subsequent stalking offense, the stalking charge will be a Class 4 felony. An even lengthier prison sentence and a fine of up to $500,000 may be imposed for a Class 4 felony conviction.

How Can You Fight a Stalking Charge?

Stalking in Colorado is like any other crime. To convict you of a stalking charge, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but the right Denver stalking lawyer will cast doubt on the state’s evidence and develop an aggressive, effective defense strategy on your behalf.

Your Denver defense attorney may offer one or more of these defenses against a stalking charge:

  1.  You did not threaten anyone.
  2.  The “victim” did not feel any emotional distress.
  3.  You spoke to the victim only one time.
  4.  A reasonable individual wouldn’t have taken your words or actions seriously.
  5.  You’ve been misidentified and someone else did the threatening or stalking.
  6.  The allegation against you is fabricated and no threats or stalking happened.

If you are innocent of stalking, insist on your right to a jury trial. Your lawyer will explain to the jurors what actually happened and why they should find you not guilty. However, if the evidence against you is overwhelming, you’ll need a lawyer who can negotiate the best possible plea deal.

When Should You Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you are placed under arrest and charged with stalking, do not resist the police or argue with the officers. Instead, politely insist on your right to remain silent and on your right to have your defense lawyer present during any interrogation.

Then, contact a Denver criminal defense attorney at your very first opportunity. Your defense attorney will review the stalking charge and the evidence against you, protect your rights, explain your legal options, and bring your stalking case to its best possible resolution.

Dan Murphy
By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.