Cyber Harassment Explained by a New York City Criminal Defense Attorney
Cyber-harassment and cyber stalking are serious crimes, which can result in federal and state prosecution. Penalties can be significant, especially when there are real-world consequences for online harassment. In February of 2016, for example, reports indicated two siblings were sentenced to life in prison for cyberstalking which ultimately lead to a death by shooting.
Forty-nine states, including New York, have laws against cyberbullying. Both federal and state law prohibit the related offense of cyber-stalking. If you are accused of using the Internet to harass or stalk someone, you need to vigorously defend yourself against the charges to try to avoid a conviction or reduce the possible criminal penalties you face.
Laws on cyberbullying and cyberstalking are relatively new and have only developed in recent years as the consequences of abusive online behavior have become apparent. As a result, it is imperative to be represented by an experienced NY criminal defense lawyer who has knowledge of cyberbullying and online harassment laws and who can provide the help you need to fight charges. Bukh Law Firm, PLLC has extensive experience in this area of law and has successfully represented many defendants faced with criminal charges for online conduct.
What is Cyber Crime Harassment?
Cyberbullying involves using the computer, Internet, or other information technology networks to deliberately and repeatedly harass or harm someone. A wide variety of different behaviors could constitute cyberbullying including:
- Posting rumors and gossip on web pages, in discussion groups, over Instant Messenger, in online gaming, and via text message.
- Making repeated contact with someone using social media or other online methods of communication to name call or post offensive comments.
- Intentionally and cruelly excluding people from an online group.
- Ganging up on victims online and making them the subject of ridicule in forums or on social media.
- Hacking into and vandalizing websites with misleading or defamatory information about a person
- Publishing someone’s identity and personal information online, including disclosing someone’s address or workplace.
- Posing as someone else online, including creating fake accounts and/or posting while impersonating the victim
- Posting offensive and/or demeaning pictures on social media
- Making online death threats
- Using Google bombs to manipulate search engines to return particular information when an individual is searched
These are just a few of many examples of cyber crime harassment. Cyber stalking is a very similar offense to cyber bullying; however, it can involve not only using the Internet to harass someone but also using the Internet to monitor and keep tabs on victims. A person can engage in cyberstalking without the victim even being aware his or her accounts are being followed and information is being obtained. However, cyber stalking can also be much more open and can be accompanied by bullying behaviors and/or repeated unwanted contact.
While most people associate both cyber stalking and cyber bullying with computers, the fact is the cyber world extends beyond forums, social networks, and online connections. Cyber bullying or cyber stalking can also occur via text message and email, as well as online postings.
Laws on Cyber Bullying and Cyber Stalking
In 2008, the Megan Myer Cyberbullying Prevention Act was introduced into federal law. The Act was named after a young woman from Missouri who committed suicide shortly before her 14th birthday after a campaign of online harassment. A fake MySpace account had been created pretending to be a teen boy who moved to the area, and the “boy” connected with Megan to gain information. Posts were eventually sent to the young girl by the “teen boy” telling her she was a bad person and everyone hated her. Messages were exchanged over both MySpace and instant messenger before the young woman killed herself.
The Cyberbullying Prevention Act named after Megan Myer would have made cyber bullying a federal crime and imposed penalties of two years imprisonment for electronic speech that was meant to harass, coerce, or cause substantial emotional distress. The law, however, did not pass. As a result, there are currently no federal cyber harassment laws specifically targeted towards preventing online bullying.
Stop Bullying.gov explains that other federal laws might apply if harassment is discriminatory and is based on someone’s protected class or status. For example, if harassment occurs because of race, religion, gender, national origin, or disability status, the harassment can run afoul of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or other federal anti-discrimination legislation.
The federal government does have a law related to cyber stalking. 18 U.S. Code section 2261A, which prohibits the crime of stalking, was amended to impose penalties for someone who “uses the mail, any interactive computer service or electronic communication service or electronic communication system” with the intent to injure, intimidate, kill, harass, or surveil someone. Penalties can be imposed upon a defendant who uses the Internet, mail, or electronic communications to place someone in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury, or against a defendant who causes or attempts to cause substantial emotional distress through behavior which would reasonably be expected to cause stress.
Penalties under 2661A vary depending upon the outcome of the stalking and harassment. If the victim is killed, the defendant can face life in prison. If permanent disfigurement or life-threatening bodily injuries occur, the defendant could face up to 20 years imprisonment. If serious bodily injury results or a weapon is used, the maximum penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment. In most other cases, up to five years in prison is the maximum fine.
In addition to federal laws, there are state laws on cyber crimes in the vast majority of states, including in New York where defendants could be charged with aggravated harassment.
How Can a Cyberstalking Attorney or Cyber Bullying Lawyer Help You?
If you have been accused of cyber crime harassment, you need a cyber bullying lawyer to assist you in fighting for your future. You don’t want to be imprisoned for a lengthy period of time or face fines and other consequences just because you are accused of saying some offensive words on the Internet.
You need to fight hard for your freedom, and Bukh Law Firm, PLLC is dedicated to helping you explore ways to get the best outcome possible when you are under investigation or charged with a crime. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation and learn more about the legal services a cyber harassment lawyer can offer.