What is cyberstalking?

With the rise of the internet and mobile devices, cyberstalking, a form of online harassment, is becoming increasingly commonplace around the globe. People have a false feeling of anonymity online, so they often say things on the internet that they probably would never say in person.

Cyberstalking is a serious charge in Florida. The state diligently prosecutes defendants facing cyberstalking charges and imposes stiff penalties when convicted. Following an arrest for cyberstalking, contact Goldman Wetzel to speak to a defense lawyer in St. Petersburg straightaway. Our attorneys will immediately begin working on your case and try to convince the prosecutor not to press charges, or to drop charges if the state already filed them. Call us today at 727-828-3900 to get started.

Is cyberstalking illegal in Florida?

The law is still evolving when it comes to internet and other telecommunication crimes like cyberstalking. While not all states have laws in place that criminalize cyberstalking, Florida does and imposes harsh penalties for convictions, so contact our team right away if you are facing charges.

According to Florida Statute § 784.048, Florida categorizes cyberstalking as a first-degree misdemeanor. If the defendant is accused of making a credible threat while cyberstalking, the offense is upgraded to a third-degree felony.

There are several federal laws that also prohibit certain types of cyberstalking activity. For example, 47 USC § 223 makes it a crime to use a telecommunications device to send anyone “any comment, request, suggestion, proposal, image, or other communication which is obscene or child pornography, with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass another person,” or to use a phone to harass someone.

What constitutes cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking, similar to cyberbullying, involves a pattern of stalking and harassing or threatening someone through electronic means, such as through texting, email, social media or dating profiles, comment threads, and other internet social hubs.

Specifically, Florida Statute § 784.048(1)(d) defines cyberstalking as engaging “in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” 

Florida’s cyberstalking laws contain very vague language, which gives law enforcement and the state a lot of discretion when it comes to arresting someone for cyberstalking. Saying anything to anyone online or via text that “causes substantial emotional distress” can technically constitute cyberstalking, even though “substantial” is a relative term and “emotional distress” is subjective. Thus, our defense may include arguing that your actions do not constitute charges for cyberstalking.

Some of the most common types of cyberstalking include:

  • Sending threatening emails
  • “Trolling”
  • Sexting
  • Soliciting sex via electronic means
  • Posting or electronically circulating things that are humiliating or embarrassing for the victim
  • Posting a series of explicit, aggressive, or harassing posts or comments
  • Spreading false, harmful rumors about someone online
  • Sending inappropriate messages via text, messenger, Instagram, or another online platform
  • Gathering information about someone online to threaten, embarrass, or harass the person
  • Creating fake profiles that mimic a real person and forging negative posts
  • Sending someone inappropriate or harmful photos repeatedly without solicitation on Snapchat or another social network

When you put the attorneys at Goldman and Wetzel on your case, we get started immediately investigating the facts and challenging any exaggerated or fabricated claims of cyberstalking. 

How can I fight cyberstalking charges?

The first step to fighting cyberstalking charges is to speak to the cyberstalking attorneys at Goldman Wetzel for counsel. There are various defenses that may be useful, but each case is different and what will work for you depends on the specifics of your case.

When you enlist our help, we will immediately begin reviewing the digital records of the communication in question to gather evidence, and then talk to the prosecutor and see if we can negotiate reduced or dropped charges. We might be able to show the prosecutor that the situation is a misunderstanding or that the accuser made a false claim.

If we cannot get the prosecutor to drop the charges, we will begin developing a strong defense strategy for your case. The penalties for one count of cyberstalking are up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If the charge is elevated to aggravated cyberstalking, you are looking at five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Your liberty and future are on the line, so you need the best possible defense lawyers to manage your case.

Our team will work fast to intervene on your behalf with the investigators to try to minimize the negative consequences for you. Call the cyberstalking defense attorneys in St. Petersburg now at 727-828-3900.