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Bill circulating in Wisconsin aims to expand legal definition of stalking

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A bill being considered by state lawmakers aims to expand the legal definition of stalking in an effort to protect future victims.

Current law punishes people who stalk through various forms of behavior. However, the language in the statutes does not specifically include behavior like texting or sending and posting content online.

Senate Bill 235 would change that if it becomes law. The bill had a public hearing Tuesday.

The effort is spearheaded by Sen. André Jacque (R – DePere) who authored the bill.

“This updates and clarifies our statute,” Jacque told CBS 58. “[It] makes sure that something that is already able to be prosecuted – takes away the seed of doubt from the jury, from anybody that would be potentially, targeted by a defense argument.”

That scenario greatly impacted Nicole Offield of Green Bay. Her son was the victim of cyberstalking in high school by a teacher.

“It started at the end of my son’s junior year,” Offield said. “He started to receive multiple texts that were actually sexual in nature and not just the friendly teacher-student texts.”

Offield told CBS 58 that her son told school officials and they moved forward with legal action. During the case, the defense lawyer for the teacher used the language in the current stalking law to their advantage in order to avoid a harsher sentence for their client.

“It was very hard to hear the defense lawyer come into every preliminary hearing that we had stating, ‘This is not stalking, his phone never rang,’” Offield said. “It doesn’t matter. [My son] was still notified that there was a message. It doesn’t matter that the phone never physically rang.”

The teacher eventually entered a plea deal but if the bill becomes law, similar situations could end up in harsher penalties.

Offield hopes the bill can prevent future victims from having to experience the situation her and her son went through.

“We need to roll with the times and we need to make sure that the laws are updated to reflect what is happening today.”

Senator Jacque said he hopes the bill can get on the Assembly and Senate floors for a vote in November.

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