Stalking in the real world can be a terrifying experience for anyone — being followed home from work or school, receiving letters or flowers out of nowhere, or seeing strange cars or people around where you live or work. However, what if it transcends into the online world? Well, that is where it turns into cyberstalking.
Cyberstalking can be just as terrifying, if not more, especially since the the cyberstalker can easily infect your computer with malicious software that can steal your personal information like your social, your phone number, your address, or even your bank account information.
To answer our title’s question, cyberstalking is a crime and is punished differently depending on federal and individual state laws. Let’s take a look.
What is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is when a person uses technology (i.e., social media, forums, blogs, messenger, and more) to cause fear or concern for another person’s safety. A cyberstalker’s intent is usually to invade privacy and to threaten or frighten the victim — all over a period of time with repeated actions.
Cyberstalking is rarely committed by a stranger and, rather, is done by someone the victim usually knows — an ex boyfriend/girlfriend, past colleague, past friend, acquaintance, ex boss, etc. The cyberstalker has likely gained access to the victim’s personal information like accounts, inboxes, and other personal information.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 18% of all Americans have been subjected to severe forms of cyberstalking including sexual harassment and physical threats.
Prosecuting cyberstalking under the law can be a difficult matter especially when compared to regular stalking offenses. For one, regular stalking charges usually require that an act or conduct has been committed before the defendant can be convicted. However, with cyberstalking, the guidelines are a bit more ambiguous — where an overt act or conduct does not have to be committed.
Second, it is not always easy to pinpoint the identity of a cyberstalker especially when it is simple to disguise one’s identity over the Internet. However, if the cyberstalker manages to share personal information or images/videos of themselves, that would make it relatively easy to identify the cyberstalker.
Lastly, it can be hard to figure out where to file a cyberstalking case especially if the victim and defendant both live in different states. Thankfully, most states have adopted venue statutes that allow cases to be tried either in the state where the victim lives or in the state where the defendant lives. In the case that state law enforcement agencies can’t decide — these cases are normally referred to federal agencies.
Cyberstalking is normally charged as a misdemeanor in most states, however, there are extenuating circumstances where cyberstalking can become a felony. While many states don’t have a cyberstalking statute per say, they do have modifications to already present statutes in harassment, stalking, and online solicitation.
Cyberstalking is a malicious criminal activity that puts the wellbeing of another in jeopardy. It causes victims to be genuinely afraid for their life, to feel threatened, and to be constantly harassed to the point where online activities are no longer enjoyable. Cyberstalking can happen to anyone and, more often than not, involves someone that the victim knows. It is a serious matter and not something that should be brushed idly by.
If you’ve been accused of a cyberstalking, it’s a serious matter. Contact the Law Office of Hernandez & Hamilton, Tucson criminal defense attorneys. While these cases can be difficult to prosecute, it doesn’t mean that it would be pointless to get legal our advice/help. Keep all evidence including any online communication made between you and the cyberstalker. If you know the identity of the cyberstalker, that would help your case even more.
Cyberstalking can be scary and certainly not something you should endure alone. Don’t tolerate it and reach out for help if you are being victimized.