The internet has opened the door to a wide range of crimes still new to law enforcement. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be prosecuted and convicted of a cybercrime such as cyberstalking. What is cyberstalking you ask? It refers to when a person repeatedly harasses another online through social media, instant messaging or any other type of internet platform.
It’s safe to say most use the internet daily to navigate their lives. So threatening or disturbing messages or harassment online can cause great harm to the other person. To combat this issue, Florida has implemented strict cyberstalking laws to punish those who cause immense distress over the internet. If you or someone you know has been arrested for cyberstalking, it’s imperative you seek an experienced attorney to represent you.
Attorney for Cyberstalking and Cyber Crimes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
A cyberstalking offense may seem minor, but it comes with serious consequences. Depending on the facts of the case, you could be charged with upwards to a felony for the crime. In some cases, the crime can even result in you being required to register as a sex offender. To avoid these penalties, we recommend you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Our attorneys at Meltzer & Bell have been practicing in the Broward County, Florida area for years. We have the skills, resources and knowledge needed to fight for your rights. Call us today at (954) 765-6585 to set up your first consultation completely free. Our offices are located in Fort Lauderdale, but we practice in nearby areas including Pompano Beach, Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, Coral Springs and Miramar.
Overview of Cyberstalking in Florida
- Cyberstalking and Stalking Defined Under Florida Law
- Common Examples of Cyberstalking
- Penalties for Cyberstalking in Florida
- Additional Resources
Cyberstalking and Stalking Defined Under Florida Law
The crime of cyberstalking is similar to standard stalking, but online. In Florida, stalking is defined as any person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or harasses another person according to Florida Statute § 784.048. Cyberstalking, on the other hand, is when a person does any of the following:
- Communicate or cause to be communicated words, images or language y or through the use of electronic communication, messaging or mail directed at a specific person; or
- Accessing, or attempting to access another’s online account or Internet-connected home electronic systems without that person’s permission
Both acts must cause substantial emotional distress to the victim and serve no legitimate purpose for a person to be charged with cyberstalking.
Common Examples of Cyberstalking
Most associate cyberstalking with frequent messages at all times of day. However, cyberstalking can take on many various forms. Listed below are some examples of cyberstalking that could land you with criminal charges.
- Harassing Messages – Probably the most common type of cyberstalking is to repeatedly message a person online. This can happen over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other internet platform that allows instant messaging. Many online stalkers will leave tens and sometimes hundreds of messages to harass their victims. Some will even make new accounts if they’ve been blocked to keep messaging the victim.
- Catfishing – Catfishing is an internet slang term referring to people who create “fake accounts.” These accounts use information, pictures and other content from another person and impersonates them online. This is a frequent tool used by online stalkers to approach their victims and trick them into communicating with them.
- Monitoring Check-Ins – Internet platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allow users to “check-in” to the location they are currently at. Cyberstalkers will repeatedly look for check ins and may try to track their victim by scrolling through their social media profile.
- Using Google Maps Street View – Cyberstalkers will sometimes obtain the victim’s home address and house plan by using google maps street view. They can utilize the platform to see the victim’s home, how many neighbors they have and the amount of traffic or people throughout the neighborhood.
- Webcam Hijacking – Some online stalkers will hack into their victim’s webcam to invade their privacy. They do this by tricking users into downloading malware-infected files that would grant them access to the victim’s webcam. They then can turn on the webcam whenever they see fit and watch the victim without their knowledge.
Penalties for Cyberstalking or Stalking in Florida
The penalties for cyberstalking are incredibly serious and depend on the facts of the case. Stalking or cyberstalking without any aggravating factors is a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in jail; and
- A fine of up to $1,000
If your crime included one of the following aggravating factors, then your charges will be enhanced to aggravated stalking.
- You made a credible threat during the crime;
- Was subject or is currently subject to a domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence or repeat violence injunction or court-imposed prohibition of conduct;
- The victim was under the age of 16 years old; or
- The victim had an order of protection against you and your stalking violated it
Aggravated stalking is a third-degree felony, which can result in:
- Up to 5 years in prison; and
- A fine of up to $5,000
Stalking Resource Center – Visit the official website for the Stalking Resource Center, an off-branch of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Access their site to learn more about the organization, gain access to stalking response tips and answers to if you’re being stalked or not.
Florida’s Cyberstalking Laws – Visit the official website for Florida Online Sunshine, a collection of state legislation online. Access the site to learn more about stalking, cyberstalking, credible threats and the penalties for those crimes.
Defense Lawyer for Cyberstalking in Broward County, Florida
Have you been accused of cyberstalking or stalking another person? If so, we recommend you hire legal representation to protect your freedom. Hire Meltzer & Bell to have a qualified, skilled and passionate violent crimes attorney on your side. Our lawyers have been practicing for years and can utilize our knowledge to assist you.
Call us now at (954) 765-6585 to set up your first consultation free. We will discuss your options, charges and different legal avenues we can use to approach your situation. Meltzer & Bell practices throughout Broward County including Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines and Coral Springs.
This article was last updated on September 4, 2019.