Harassing a person online or through electronic-based communications, such as cell phones, is considered cyberstalking. If you have been accused of a Florida or federal cyberstalking crime, you have the opportunity to defend against the allegations with the assistance of qualified legal counsel. At Blake & Dorsten, P.A., our St. Petersburg domestic violence lawyers understand the severity of cyberstalking charges. We can work with you to protect your rights and fight against a conviction.Cyberstalking Crimes in Florida
In Florida, it is a crime to willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly cyberstalk another person. In general, cyberstalking covers harassment directed towards a specific person, which takes place online or through the use of electronic communication. Cyberstalking crimes may be perpetrated through email, text messages, internet forums, Twitter and other social media sites, cellphones, computers, and other forms of electronic-based communication. In addition, cyberstalking includes accessing or attempting to access the online accounts or home electronic systems of another person without authorization. In order to constitute a stalking crime, the harassing conduct must cause substantial emotional distress to the victim, and serve no legitimate purpose. The alleged conduct may occur over any period of time, however short, and need only to evince a clear pattern of behavior on the part of the offender.
Florida cyberstalking crimes may be charged as misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the allegations. Cyberstalking, without any aggravating factors, is typically a first degree misdemeanor offense, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of twelve months, probation, and $1,000 fine. As part of any sentence for a cyberstalking conviction, the court will consider whether to issue a restraining order prohibiting the defendant from any contact with the victim for a period of up to 10 years.Aggravated Cyberstalking
Certain factors in a cyberstalking case may result in more serious charges. One example is when the alleged victim is younger than 16 years old. In such cases, the alleged offender may face a felony charge for aggravated cyberstalking. Cyberstalking may also be elevated to aggravated cyberstalking when there are allegations of a credible threat made against the victim or the victim’s loved ones. To be a credible threat, it must be made with the apparent ability to be carried out, and it must cause the victim to reasonably fear for their safety, or the safety of a family member, or the safety of someone closely associated with the victim. Aggravated cyberstalking is a third degree felony that carries up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine if convicted.Restraining Order Violations
If the defendant was subject to a restraining order when the alleged cyberstalking occurred, the prosecution may seek an aggravated cyberstalking charge. A conviction requires proof that a valid order of protection was in effect prohibiting the defendant from domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, or repeat violence, and that the defendant knowingly, willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly cyberstalked another person.Federal Cyberstalking Offenses
Under federal law, cyberstalking includes using any computer or electronic communication service or system to engage in a course of conduct that places another person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury. In committing these acts, the offender must have intended to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate the victim, or place the victim under surveillance with such intent. Federal cyberstalking cases are investigated by the FBI or another federal agency and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The penalties for a federal cyberstalking conviction may include a maximum fine of $250,000 and a sentence of up to 5 years in federal prison.Consult a Cyberstalking Defense Lawyer in St. Petersburg
At Blake & Dorsten, P.A., we have experience defending individuals charged with cyberstalking and stalking, as well as related charges for domestic violence and restraining order violations. Our St. Petersburg attorneys represent people located throughout Pinellas County, particularly Tampa Bay and Clearwater. Request a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys by calling (727) 286-6141 or contacting us online.