The Internet is a wonderful tool for keeping us connected. Yet some individuals misuse it to harm others psychologically, and sometimes even physically.
Under Texas law, stalking is a crime. It is defined as any pattern of behavior which a person knows, or reasonably should know, would cause someone else to feel threatened or fearful. Threats may be either implied or express.
It is a third-degree felony in Texas, which means a person accused of this crime can face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense, and up to 20 years and another fine of up to $10,000 for a second offense.
When you stalk someone over the Internet you are also running afoul of the Texas Electronic Communications Act of 2001. Cyberstalking covers online abuse and harassment, as well as monitoring someone’s Internet activities, making false claims or accusations, or deliberately trying to cause damage to another person’s reputation. This can be classified as a class B misdemeanor, but it can also be prosecuted as a third-degree felony.
“Doxxing” is similarly illegal. It is a form of cyberbullying or cyberstalking where you post private information about an individual in order to try to provoke harm against them. The crime itself is not covered by a specific law, but can be charged as harassment, cyberbullying, or stalking. It has happened to a prominent Texan influencer very recently, prompting him to have to move out of the country. Behaviors such as “swatting,” where cyberstalkers try to send law enforcement over to another person’s house, can fall under the laws against making a false police report.
Teens can be charged with cyberbullying or stalking, though they would be charged in the state’s juvenile justice system if they are under the age of 14. Children who are 15 to 16 years old may be tried as children or adults, depending on the circumstances of the case. Teenagers who have reached the age of 17 can expect to be charged as adults.
As Houston defense attorneys we certainly have some strategies we can use if we need to defend you from a cyberstalking charge.
One way is to invoke your First Amendment rights. While you are not permitted to use your free speech to threaten or harm others you do have the right to speak. Sometimes we can demonstrate that your speech remains protected.
Another way is to indicate the victim’s reaction was unreasonable, that most others would not be frightened by the communication. If the alleged victim has a history of paranoia or anxiety this can be used to show that your communication was reasonable.
Cyberstalking is sometimes levied as a retaliatory accusation during a divorce or breakup. We can sometimes demonstrate that this is true in your case, as well.
Need help? Take cyberstalking charges seriously. Reach out to our office to get help today.
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