The internet has changed our lives over the last twenty years drastically. Almost everything now is online whether it’s paying your bills or connecting with friends and family. With the development of the internet, however, means crimes online are becoming more common. The state of California has reacted to this increase in online crime by passing legislation related to it. One of these prohibited online acts is cyberstalking or harassing/stalking someone online.

Cyberstalking, under California law, is the act of harassing or threatening another person online to the point they fear for their or someone else’s safety. Since it’s an online crime, cyberstalking can be committed in various ways over text, e-mail, video message, etc. These cases can be difficult for inexperienced attorneys to defend as the evidence is easily traceable online. That is why we highly encourage you to get in contact with an experienced cybercrime attorney as soon as possible to discuss your charges.

Cyberstalking Defense Attorney in Ventura County, CA

Most cyberstalking cases are relatively harmless, and the person accused has no actual intention on harming the alleged victim. However, the fear the victim feels is debilitating enough that the state of California has recognized stalking online as a crime carrying serious penalties. That is why we highly suggest you secure legal counsel as soon as possible if you’ve been charged with cyberstalking.

Contact Jay Leiderman Law for an experienced cyber crime lawyer who has a thorough understanding of crimes online and which defenses are effective for them. Not only does criminal defense attorney Leiderman have experience with online crimes, but he’s represented the nationally known cyber protestor group Anonymous before. His detailed knowledge on these crimes were vital for this case that he’s become a go-to resource for cyber protestors.

Set up your first consultation with Jay Leiderman Law today by calling our offices at (805) 654-0200. Jay Leiderman Law accepts clients throughout the greater Ventura area including Oxnard, Ventura, Camarillo, Ojai, Simi Valley, Port Hueneme, Fillmore, Oak Park, Somis, Piru, Saticoy, Santa Barbara, Golesta, Santa Ynez, Van Nuys, Summerland, Solvang, Santa Maria and Summerland.

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California Cyberstalking Laws

Many people who use the internet and are unaware of recent legislation ask, “is cyberstalking illegal?” The phenomenon is so new that many may believe the act isn’t prohibited yet under California law. However, in actuality California was one of the first states to amend their stalking statute to include instances of “electronically communicated” threats or cyberstalking.

In California, the elements for cyberstalking can be found under Penal Code Section 646.9(g). The statute for cybercrime is very similar to a standard stalking offense except it has the added requirements that the “credible threat” is communicated through an electronic device. Listed below are the elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you of cyberstalking.

  • You willfully and maliciously harassed someone else; and
  • Made a credible threat against the alleged victim; and
  • Placed that person in reasonable fear of their safety or someone else’s safety; and
  • The threat was communicated on the internet or via an electronic communication device

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Types of Cyberstalking

The statute for cyberstalking isn’t fully fleshed out. The lack of detail in the legislation means many acts online could be considered cyberstalking with the right lens. The severity of a cyberstalking case will vary depending on the circumstances of the case. However, the prosecution will not hesitate to file charges if your actions constitute as cyberstalking under the Penal Code.

Listed below are some examples of cyberstalking under California law.

  • Sending mass threatening or harassing emails
  • Logging into another’s online account to drain their finances or ruin their credit
  • Uploading or posting embarrassing or humiliating information about the alleged victim
  • Revealing a person’s intimate and sensitive information online such as a phone number, address, or workspace and encouraging others to harass said person
  • Impersonating the victim online on social media, a forum, an online chatroom, or any online space and intentionally acting offensive so the victim is harassed later on
  • Sending explicit photos or messages to a person’s online account or cell phone without the victim’s consent

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Can You Go to Jail for Online Harassment?

The short answer is yes. You can definitely be sentenced to jail for harassing someone online. What’s even more concerning is that cyberstalking is considered a “wobbler” under California law. That means the prosecution can either classify the act as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances as well as your criminal history.

In California, a misdemeanor cyberstalking offense may result in:

  • Up to 12 months in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000

Felony cyberstalking, however, is punishable by:

  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Possible lifetime registration as a sex offender

It’s important to note that if your victim was your fiancé, current/former spouse, someone you live with, the parent of your child, or someone you were dating—then it may be charged as a domestic violence crime. That means you could be subject to additional penalties.

As previously stated above, if you’re convicted of felony cyberstalking, you could be required to register as a sex offender. This sentencing condition will only be imposed if they believe the victim was stalking as a result of “sexual compulsion or sexual gratification.”

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Restraining Order for Electronic Harassment in CA

The statutory penalties for cyberstalking are serious, but you could be subject to even more consequences not related to sentencing. If the victim feels it’s necessary, they have the option to file a restraining order against you. This is a court order designed to “protect” the alleged victim from a named party.

There are four types of restraining orders in California, but for cyberstalking only two apply. You could get served with a civil harassment restraining order. This type of court order protects people who have been abused, stalked, or harassed by a person they don’t have a close relationship with. If you’re under a civil harassment restraining order, you won’t be able to contact the victim, come in close contact with their child, or violate any condition listed.

The other type of restraining order you may be served with is a domestic violence restraining order. The victim has to have one of the following types of relationship with you to file for a domestic violence restraining order.

  • Current or former domestic partners
  • In a dating relationship
  • In an intimate relationship
  • Share a child together
  • Shared a household together at one time

Usually, a domestic violence restraining order will have more conditions. You may be forced to move out of your shared home, pay certain finances, attend a batterer’ intervention program, or pay child support.

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Additional Resources

Resources for Victims | OAG – Visit the California Office of the Attorney General to find resources for victims of cyberstalking and exploitation. Access the site to learn what cyber exploitation is, the harm that can come from it, how the Attorney General has fought cyberstalking and other cybercrimes in the past, and other various information.

Cyberstalking Laws in California – Visit the official website for the California Legislation to read up on their passed laws regarding cyberstalking. Access the site to read up on what the definition for cyberstalking is, penalties for committing it, and other similar offenses.

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Online Harassment Defense Lawyer in Ventura County, CA

If you or someone you know has been arrested for harassing someone online, then it’s important you secure legal representation as soon as possible. Jay Leiderman Law has two decades of experience he can direct towards your case. Don’t wait another moment to fight for your future and call Jay Leiderman Law.

Jay Leiderman Law can be contacted at (805) 654-0200 for your first consultation free. Offices are located in Ventura, but we accept clients throughout Ventura County, Van Nuys, and Santa Barbara County.