The United States Supreme Court recently issued a ruling regarding Colorado’s stalking statute that raises interesting issues related to the difference between one person’s intent and another person’s experience.
Previously, if a victim reasonably perceived a suspect’s statements as threatening, that was sufficient for a conviction. Under the new ruling, it is now necessary to prove that the suspect was aware that the statements could be perceived as threatening. It is no longer sufficient just to prove that the victim reasonably felt threatened – prosecutors now must also prove that the suspect had some awareness that the statements were threatening.
These types of issues are common in law (and in life). It is not uncommon for two people to have vastly different perspectives about a single event. One person’s ‘blowing off steam’ is another person’s ‘fear for my life’. We all have different thresholds for what we take seriously and what we can disregard.
At the Datz Law Firm we handle all sorts of criminal, divorce and protection order cases where one party is scared of the other party. These fears can be based on a long history of subtle abusive behaviors or a recent change in circumstance. When people are inside a committed relationship, they are often willing to give their partner the benefit of the doubt. Once that relationship ends, they often perceive their ex in a totally different light. Sometimes that is completely fair and appropriate, while other times our judgement can be impacted by the circumstances of the relationship ending.
These types of cases sometimes involve abusive and manipulative people who are very good at conveying a threat without leaving a solid trail of evidence. Subtle shifts in tone, volume, or body positioning can have a huge impact that is difficult to describe and document. Within the context of a relationship, certain words and phrases may have meanings that are clear to the victim, but mean nothing to an outsider. These types of manipulations are often described as a “feeling” or as something that the victim “just knows” but are difficult to articulate on the witness stand.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, the attorneys at the Datz Law Firm can help you process the underlying power dynamics and discern what facts and circumstances are relevant in court and can support your goals.