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Easley signs bill on stalking

Gov. Mike Easley's office said today he had signed a bill that expands the legal definition of stalking.

Under the new law, which takes effect Dec. 1, stalking is defined as harassing another person or engaging in a “course of conduct” that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his safety or suffer emotional distress. The previous definition had not allowed for a conviction based on a “course of conduct,” limiting the crime to harassing “willfully on more than one occasion.”

State Rep. Karen Ray, an Iredell County Republican, was one of the legislation's primary sponsors. The legislation passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

Stalking can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the offender's criminal record and whether the stalking violated a court order.