On April 23, 2014 the Oregon Court of Appeals filed an opinion in C.J.L. v. Langford, Slip Op A149753, which dealt with sufficiency of evidence in a Stalking Protective Order (SPO) case. The court continued a trend in tightening the standard of proof when stalking was speech-based, possibly infringing on the First Amendment. In striking down the SPO, it noted that the proponent must prove “fear of imminent and serious personal violence,” based upon a threat that is “unequivocal, and likely to be followed by unlawful acts.” Furthermore, the threat must be “so unambiguous, unequivocal, and specific to the addressee that the intention will be carried out…and that the actor has the ability to do so.” Such threats go beyond “hyperbole, rhetorical excesses, and impotent expressions of anger or frustration that in some contexts can be privileged even if they alarm the addressee.”
In this case, one person approached the other ominously and stated “I wish you were dead.” When asked to leave, he did.
This statement was not enough for the court to sustain the stalking order. This opinion seems to fortify the court’s tightening of requirements under the Stalking Protective Order statutes in light of abuses and potential infringement on Free Speech Rights under the First Amendment of the Oregon and U.S. Constitution.