Due to the significant impact electronic methods of communication have on our lives, reports of online stalking and harassment have skyrocketed. Over 7 million people are stalked each year in the United States, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Much of the stalking takes place online through avenues like email and social media as the internet provides a sense of anonymity and facilitates communication. All forms of stalking can have a significant psychological impact on victims; Florida state prosecutors take stalking and cyberstalking charges seriously, often seeking to prosecute these offenses to the full extent of the law.
What is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking when a person uses the internet and/ or other forms of electronic communication to harass and/ or threaten his or her victims. Prosecutors can charge cyberstalking at the state and federal level depending on the circumstances of the case. It can take shape through various actions, including verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and repeated requests to meet in person or participate in a private online conversation. Cyberstalkers might also engage in:
- Pretending to be the victim online
- Anonymously making private information about the victim public
- Sharing sexually provocative photographs of the victim online without his or her consent
- Texting the victim sexually provocative information or pictures
Such activities are predominantly carried out via email, texts, personal blogs, and social media. The law is unclear about when free speech turns into criminal conduct; it is often difficult to prove cyberstalking has taken place and by whom. Law enforcement officers routinely question suspects to try to obtain a confession. If a law enforcement officer approaches you in regards to a cyberstalking crime, it is in your best interest to retain legal counsel before answering any of his questions.
Aggravated Cyberstalking in West Palm Beach
Aggravated cyberstalking occurs when the suspect intimidates the victim leading the victim to fear for his or her safety. The threat may be verbal or nonverbal. Whether or not the suspect intends to carry out the threat is irrelevant; what matters is that the threat is credible and the suspect would be able to act upon it. Threats that cause others to fear serious bodily injury or death can lead to felony charges.
A person may also face aggravated charges for cyberstalking if:
- The offender knowingly violates a restraining order
- The victim is under 16
Aggravated cyberstalking offenses are third-degree felony crimes. You could face five years in a state prison among other penalties.
What is Federal Cyberstalking?
In some cases, a cyberstalking suspect may face federal charges. Several sections of the U.S. Code provide federal prosecutors avenues for bringing federal cyberstalking charges, but each of these statutes has limitations that may not apply to your case. A shrewd attorney may be able to intervene before prosecutors file charges to benefit your case.
West Palm Beach Cyberstalking Defense Lawyer Brian Gabriel
Cyberstalking is defined under Section 784.048 in the Florida Statutes. The law is written as vaguely so as not to interfere with protected speech. A Florida prosecutor must show a pattern of conduct that is willful, malicious, repetitious, and directed at a specific person. Such conduct must cause substantial distress and serve no legitimate purpose.
The state must prove the crime of cyberstalking beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction. One who is convicted of cyberstalking can face a first-degree misdemeanor charge punishable by up to twelve months in county jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.00. A West Palm Beach cyberstalking defense lawyer can build a strong case after reviewing all the facts.
To discover what lies ahead of you, search no further than The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel for tenacious criminal representation. Attorney Brian Gabriel has defended those accused of state and federal stalking charges in West Palm Beach for over 30 years. Call 561-622-5575 or contact us online to discuss your case for free.