Rep. Edward Royce (R-Fullerton) sought Thursday to strengthen the federal antistalking law by making restraining orders issued in any state valid across the U.S.
Royce's proposed legislation also would broaden the stalking provision of a 1994 law that protects victims who are spouses or intimate partners. Royce's proposal would protect all stalking victims.
"It doubles the effectiveness of the previous bill," he said after testifying before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, which considered a slate of crime-fighting bills Thursday.
Royce said legislation is needed because of the large number of people victimized by stalkers they do not know and the ineffectiveness of restraining orders in protecting victims who move to other states.
"Many times, victims are told to get away from their stalker and maybe even move to another state," Royce said. "But many people are simply followed by people who are obsessed."
Under current law, restraining orders issued in one state cannot be used to require authorities in another state to take action against a stalker. Potential victims must go through the time-consuming process of taking out another restraining order.
Under federal law, a stalker is defined as someone who acts with intent to injure or harass another and, in doing so, places the victim in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.
Royce began his antistalker mission as a state legislator six years ago, when he successfully pushed through the country's first stalking law after the murders of four Orange County women. In all cases, the women sought police protection, but were told nothing could be done unless some act of violence was committed.
Now, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of stalking legislation.
But Royce said that despite the nationwide blanket of state laws, victims are still not protected when they cross state lines. He cited an example of a New Jersey woman who had a restraining order in her own state, but could not use New York's antistalking statute to force authorities to step in when she was stalked at her workplace.
"This bill is needed to bridge the gap between police in different states, to catch stalkers who might otherwise fall between the cracks when they cross state lines," Royce said.
Royce predicted that the subcommittee would consider his bill within the next couple of months.