Q: Every day when I leave my office in Santa Monica, I get asked out by the same guy who sits at the bus stop all day. I think he’s a transient. Can he be arrested for stalking?
A: Let’s look at California law as it relates to stalking. California Penal Code 646.9 defines stalking in essence as:
“Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking. Stalking is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison.”
When reading your question, there is no implication of you fearing for your safety. In order for the gentleman to be arrested for stalking, we need to have all of the elements of stalking present. It doesn’t sound like he’s willfully or maliciously harassing you. Nor does it sound like he has made any credible threat toward your safety. If this is not the case, please contact the police immediately. You should also know that a stalking suspect could express violence directly or indirectly. An example of a direct expression of violence would be the suspect telling you he’s going to physically harm you unless you go out with him. An example of an indirect expression of violence would be the suspect leaving you notes asking you out and leaving bullets in the envelope. If you’re not in any fear for your safety, don’t be discouraged. There are a few things that can be done to assist you in this situation.
Talk to your co-workers. If possible, try to avoid leaving your office alone. The next time this gentleman asks you out, kindly tell him that you would appreciate it if he would leave you alone and stop asking you out. If he continues, then place a call for service through the police department’s non-emergency line (310) 458-8491 so an officer can contact him. You can always contact your neighborhood resource officer for other solutions. The contact information for all neighborhood resource officers in Santa Monica can be found online at http://www.santamonicapd.org.
Q: I was driving in Santa Monica recently when another vehicle abruptly swerved into my lane. I hit my brakes and honked my horn. Luckily, our vehicles did not collide. However, at the next red light, the driver of the other vehicle made it a point to stop next to me. He called me all kinds of names and even spit on my windshield. I was scared, so I turned off the street and used a different route to reach my destination. I never saw that driver again. Should I have reported this incident to the police? If I didn’t get the license plate of the other vehicle, would the police be able to locate him by getting his DNA from the spit on my windshield?
A: To answer your first question, yes. You could have reported this incident to the police. It sounds like you may have been involved in a road rage incident. Aggressive driving or “road rage” happens when crowded roads, rushing, and impatience cause one driver to react angrily to another driver. I commend you for doing the right thing and taking a different route to avoid any further contact with the other driver. It doesn’t sound like anyone was hurt or injured in the incident you described. If you decide to call the police, please try to remember as much descriptive information about the other vehicle and driver as you can. Attempt to get the license plate information, vehicle make and model, and a description of the driver. Even if you don’t want to wait for an officer to contact you, the information that you give about an aggressive driver will alert police officers in the area. Those officers may be able to locate the aggressive driver and put an end to his/her aggressive behavior.
Here are some other helpful tips to remember to assist you in dealing with an aggressive driver or someone with road rage:
• Allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
• Do not cut off other drivers.
• Do not drive slowly in the left (fast) lane.
• Do not tailgate.
• Do not make gestures to other drivers.
• Use your horn for emergencies only.
• Avoid eye contact with an angry driver.
• Give an angry driver plenty of space.
To answer your second question, no. DNA evidence collection is used in criminal cases involving serious crimes such as murder, rape, and assaults that cause great bodily injury. If your vehicle was damaged by someone else’s saliva (spit), your best bet would have been to file a police report, especially if you have the suspect’s description and license plate number that stemmed from a road rage incident.
This column was prepared by NRO Mike Boyd (Beat 8: Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.