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What Is the Crime of Cyberstalking?

With the rise of technology has come the advent of cybercrimes.  These are crimes that are committed completely through the use of computers and internet.  One of the most common of these new crimes is cyberstalking.

What Is Stalking?

The behavior of stalking has been illegalized in most jurisdictions in the United States.  Stalking it a pattern of behavior by a person that targets a particular victim.  This victim may feel harassed and threatened and worry for his or her own safety.  Stalking is not one incident.  Rather, it is a series of multiple incidents that form a pattern of malicious behavior.  It can include actions such as following a person, spying , making repeated phone calls and issuing threats.

What Is Cyberstalking?

With the advent of the internet came a new means for stalkers to target their victims.  Cyberstalking is stalking that is perpetrated in cyberspace.  For example, a more traditional stalker may send threatening letters to a victim.  A cyberstalker, alternatively, may send disturbing e-mails instead.  Overall, cyberstalking is a pattern of harassing, threatening and obsessive behavior that targets a person for an extended period of time through the internet.

Is Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying the Same Thing?

Generally, cyberstalking and cyberbullying are not considered to be the same crime.  They are extremely similar.  However, the major distinction is age.  Cyberbullying laws generally concern the actions of minors.  Typically these are schoolyard bullies that move their harassing behavior onto the internet.  Cyberstalking concerns older perpetrators.  However, there may be no distinction between the two depending on the jurisdiction.

How Do Cyberstalking Laws Vary by State?

A total of 44 states have enacted laws that make the act of cyberstalking a crime.  In many cases, these laws were enacted into the legal code by simply amending previously existing statutes that covered more traditional means of stalking.  This is not always the case however.  Texas, for example, enacted a completely separate statute.

Cyberstalking laws in different states can also vary significantly regarding the definition of the crime as well as the severity of associated penalties.  Differences regarding the intent of the person accused of stalking and the frequency of the behavior may exist when a crime is or isn’t labeled as cyberstalking.

Penalties may be determined by whether or not the crime committed is deemed to be “harassment” or more severe “stalking.”  Harassment is most usually considered a misdemeanor that can result in fines and community service.  Stalking is often prosecuted as a felony and can result in jail time.

What Is the Defense to Cyberstalking

Convicting a person of the crime of stalking, whether through the internet or not, is rather difficult.  Often times, a defendant’s lawyers may cite the freedom of speech as a defense.  In most cases, simple obnoxious behavior is protected under the first amendment right of free speech.

Whether or not behavior interpreted as stalking or similar kinds of harassment is protected by the freedom of speech depends on the existence of a “true threat.”  The legal basis of this distinction was developed in a ruling in the case of United States v. Baker.

In this case, a student of the University of Michigan was charged with crimes regarding pornographic and violent “snuff” fiction he posted on a Usenet group.  This fiction included a character with the name of a fellow student.  However, Baker was ultimately acquitted due to the fact his fiction was deemed to not constitute a “true threat.”

Similarly, behavior characterized as cyberstalking must be deemed to constitute what a rational person would perceive as a real threat to gain a conviction that is not later overturned on first amendment grounds.  Behavior that is simply irritating or shocking may not pass constitutional muster as an actual crime.

Author Bio:- This article was written by Karl Stockton for the team at bail bonds services.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Jean William

    September 18, 2012, 9:44 am

    i knew about cyber crimes a lot from the past but i really never did know what does mean cyber talking. this is very helpful article for me. i have came to know the difference between cyber crimes.

    Thanks for the great post. I appreciate it. 🙂

    Reply

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