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Cyberstalking: Examples, Laws, & Penalties

Cyberstalking: Examples, Laws, & Penalties

Are You a Stalker? You Could Be Without Realizing It.

Did you know that an estimated 6 to 7.5 million Americans are stalked every year, while most of them are between ages 18 and 24? 2015 data in the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey confirms this eye-opening truth. Since January is National Stalking Awareness Month, it is a good time to discuss what stalking is, how it is committed, and the legal penalties you could face if convicted.

The federal Office on Women’s Health defines stalking as any repeated and unwanted sexual contact that makes a person feel unsafe. Stalking may be committed by anyone, although, most stalkers have a personal or intimate relationship with their victims. Many people who stalk their romantic partners feel like they’re doing so out of love and affection, but in reality, it may be a sign of abuse.

Stalking can be physical or virtual, meaning a person may follow their victim to work, school, appointments, and social gatherings ad spy on them, or they may use technology to engage in unwanted electronic communications with a victim. This is called “cyberstalking.” Many people perceive stalking as the act of one person physically following another person. While this is true, a stalker may also spy on their victim, track their location, and send repeated, harassing messages to the victim.

With this in mind, let’s review some examples of stalking and cyberstalking to help you understand what actions to avoid:

  • Sending unwanted, frightening, or obscene emails, text messages, or instant messages
  • Harassing or threatening a victim on social media
  • Tracking and monitoring a victim’s computer, phone, and internet use
  • Using technology such as GPS to track a victim’s location
  • Repeatedly calling and texting a victim, which may including hanging up right after
  • Following a victim and appearing out of “nowhere”
  • Send unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or e-mails
  • Damaging a victim’s home, car, or other property
  • Hacking into a victim’s social media accounts or email
  • Planting hidden cameras to track a victim’s whereabouts
  • Driving by or hanging out at a victim’s apartment/dorm, outside their classroom, or their work
  • Threatening to hurt a victim, their family, friends, or pets
  • Using public records or online search services, hiring private investigators, going through garbage, or contacting a victim’s friends, classmates, family, neighbors, or co-workers
  • Committing other actions that control or frighten a victim

Instastalkers Should Beware.

Far too often, people use the term “stalking” very loosely and casually, making the crime seem less serious than it actually is. For example, “Instastalking” is a cultural phenomenon in which people stalk other people’s Instagram profiles without their knowledge. There are even apps and websites that allow people who both do and don’t have an Instagram account to “stalk” other people’s profiles, posts, and stories. However, it’s important to know that anonymously browsing through people’s Instagram profiles is not a crime, but if you take it too far as described in the examples above, you could get in legal trouble.

If convicted of stalking in California, your penalties will include one year in jail and/or $1,000 fines, but you may suffer 2 to 5 years in prison if you’ve been convicted of domestic abuse, violating a restraining order, or making terroristic threats. Not to mention, your reputation will take a hard hit amid a conviction, as our society often humiliates and “outcasts” stalkers.

Don’t let this happen to you. Fight your charges with the help of our lawyer to increase your chances of walking away free. Contact us at (510) 907-6600 to get started!