This week the Ohio House of Representatives passed legislation to update and expand the offenses of “menacing by stalking” and “telecommunications harassment.” The legislation was sponsored by State Representative Marlene Anielski (R-Independence) after being informed about a situation that a constituent in Broadview Heights was facing.

Under current law, it is prohibited to cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm or mental distress to the other person. House Bill 414 adds the immediate family members of the person to the prohibition and includes causing “emotional distress” to the description.

The legislation also would prevent someone from urging or inciting another to commit a violation of menacing by stalking through any form of written communication, including the use of a telecommunications device or using any intentionally written or verbal graphic gestures. Existing law prevents a person of remotely transferring information through any electronic method, predominantly focused around the use of computers, to incite another to commit a violation.

“This bill brings some of our current laws on menacing and stalking up to date and will provide more peace of mind to the victims and families of those who have experienced these terrible situations,” Representative Anielski said. “I’m pleased that the Ohio House supported the bill with bipartisan support.”

The penalty for a violation of the new prohibitions is the same as the existing penalties for telecommunications harassment—a first degree misdemeanor on a first offense and a fifth degree felony on each subsequent offense.

House Bill 414 will now move to the Ohio Senate for further debate and consideration.


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