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Fairfax/Manassas Criminal & Personal Injury Blog

We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected via various means of electronic communication. Chances are that you email, text, post on social media sites or otherwise communicate with others via electronic devices on a regular basis. It is important to maintain a certain sense of etiquette and restraint when communicating electronically. Failure to do so could result in you being charged with cyberstalking, even for offenses that seem completely legal at first glance.

For example, a prominent attorney connected to a top law school’s legal clinic was recently charged with cyberstalking and made headlines for doing so. The story is ultimately newsworthy because it seems that even some attorneys are a bit unclear on how far they can go in exercising their First Amendment right to free speech before crossing the line into cyberstalking. This attorney was not engaging in a sex offense, nor was he slandering another person. He was charged with cyberstalking “simply” for sending allegedly harassing texts to a legal opponent in regards to a noise ordinance dispute.

Specific laws governing cyberstalking vary from state to state. Therefore, if you have questions about this particular charge, you should consult a local attorney experienced in matters of criminal law. Generally however, to be convicted of cyberstalking, you must have sent harassing electronic communications to another. These communications must generally cause the recipient reasonable fear for his or her own safety or for the safety of his or her family.

Please, think twice before sending threatening electronic communications via text, email or social media. Even if you mean them jokingly, if the recipient takes your messages the wrong way, you could potentially be charged with cyberstalking.

Source: Findlaw Blotter, “What Is Cyberstalking?” Daniel Taylor, July 17, 2014 

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