In today’s technological age, cyberstalking has become a prevalent issue. How do we define cyberstalking? Where is the line drawn between playful and dangerous? What ages are most impacted by cyberstalking? How do we keep our children safe? And, is it a generational challenge? For example, do teenagers routinely take part in cyberstalking activities just through regular use of social media sites?
According to Legal Dictionary, “Cyberstalking refers to the crime of using the Internet, email, or other types of electronic communications to stalk, harass, or threaten another person. Cyberstalking most often involves sending harassing emails, instant or text messages, or social media posts, or creating websites for the sole purpose of tormenting the victim.”
In other words, cyberstalking is the legal term for harassing someone through electronic communications. This can include threats, solicitation for sex, false accusations, defamation, slander, libel, identity theft and vandalism. Another word for cyberstalking is “cyberbullying.” In the latter, behaviors are often repetitive, obsession-based and directed personally.
While this crime is never acceptable, laws governing it vary by state. Florida law defines cyberstalking as “a person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses or cyberstalks another person, and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree.” Additionally, each state might have a series of actions that might not be considered illegal under other circumstances but are considered illegal while this type of crime occurs.
In 2000, The Violence Against Women Act brought cyberstalking into the eyes of the federal law. Many people, however, do not think there are strict enough laws pertaining to this crime. As technology continues to grow, more and more laws are created. Each law varies, but the general consensus under cyberstalking laws is that this type of harassment is a criminal offense. Resulting sentences may include a restraining order, imprisonment, restitution, fines and/or probation.
Because the use of technology has become more regularized in today’s society, sometimes it can be difficult for a victim to determine if the situation is a criminal act. First, the victim should talk to an attorney. The U.S. Department of Justice recommends that people demand the stalker to stop all forms of contact, save all forms of communication as evidence, be sure to keep records of threats against victim’s safety, contact the perpetrator’s internet service provider (ISP) and log all reports made to government agencies. This will help make a victim’s case stronger and can help determine stronger punishments for the perpetrator.
This crime is more than just liking someone’s Instagram photo from three months ago or commenting on a photography. It is premeditated, malicious and dangerous. If you have any more questions, get the advice you need. Do not wait to schedule a free consultation with an experienced member of our local legal team.