Case Law Update: Rude, Irritating, or Inconvenient Conduct not Sufficient to Support Order of Protection

Recent Case: SD v. MW Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District - SD31296

Under section 455.010(13), "stalking" occurs when any person purposely and repeatedly engages in an unwanted course of conduct that causes alarm to another person when it is reasonable in that person's situation to have been alarmed by the conduct. As used in this subdivision:

(a) "Alarm" means to cause fear of danger of physical harm;

(b) "Course of conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of repeated acts over a period of time, however short, that serves no legitimate purpose. Such conduct may include, but is not limited to, following the other person or unwanted communication or unwanted

contact; and

(c) "Repeated" means two or more incidents evidencing a continuity of purpose.

"Stalking statutes should be construed narrowly enough to prevent serious abuse, but broadly enough to maximize victim protection." Towell v. Steger, 154 S.W.3d 471, 476 (Mo. App. S.D. 2005). Because harm can result from an abuse of the Adult Abuse Act, "trial courts must exercise great care to make certain that sufficient evidence exists to support all elements of the statute before entering a full order of protection." Overstreet v. Kixmiller, 120 S.W.3d 257, 259 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003).

Petitioner did not claim Appellant was following her. Petitioner did not offer any evidence showing that Appellant had ever engaged in any violent acts or that Petitioner had any other reason to believe Appellant was a violent person. Petitioner presented no evidence that Appellant said anything, made any gestures, or otherwise communicated any specific thing to Petitioner that would cause a reasonable person to believe he or she was in danger of physical harm from Appellant. As a result, no substantial evidence supported the existence of this necessary element of stalking. Appellant's point is granted.

The judgment was reversed, and the cause was remanded to the trial court which is directed to vacate the full order.