What to Know About Cyberstalking in Florida

June 23, 2021 Criminal Defense

What is Cyberstalking?

When you think of stalking, you probably think of someone who is monitoring every move of someone else and actively pursuing them. Most often, it takes place between two people who had some kind of romantic relationship in the past. However, the internet has made stalking significantly easier. To combat this issue, Florida enacted Section §784.048 of the Florida Statutes which defines stalking and encompasses cyberstalking. According to the statute, “cyberstalk” means[1]:

  1. To engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person; or
  2. To access, or attempt to access, the online accounts or internet-connected home electronic systems of another person without that person’s permission, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.

Legal Repercussions of Cyberstalking in Florida

A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the first-degree misdemeanor of stalking.[2] This is punishable by up to one year in county and a $1,000 fine.[3] If a person does this, along with making a credible threat to their victim, they commit aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony.[4] This is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.[5] If a person violates a restraining order or injunction to prevent them from knowingly, willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, stalking, harassing, or cyberstalking another person, they commit the third-degree felony of aggravated stalking.[6] A first-degree misdemeanor of stalking is enhanced to the third-degree felony of aggravated stalking if a person follows, harasses, or cyberstalks a child under the age of sixteen.[7] If a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe any of these offenses have been committed, they may make an arrest without a warrant.

The Terrors of Cyberstalking  

In 2019, a man in Palm Beach was arrested for cyberstalking after posting nude photos of his girlfriend on social media, texting death threats to her family and forging a suicide note in her name.[8] He went so far as to create a website with a timer counting down to her death.[9] Although this seems like an extreme case, the reality of cyberstalking is terrifying and often involves acts like sending thousands of text messages to someone a month or threatening them with sexual or physical violence. From July 2018 to August 2019, Palm Beach County jail alone had 75 arrests in relation to felony and misdemeanor cyberstalking, with more than 40 of those arrested facing the more serious count.[10] Out of those 75 cases, only about 10 led to convictions of either lesser or related charges, with more than half the cases being closed when “prosecutors, victims, or both, declined to pursue charges.”[11] Experts say that the victim in this situation is almost always someone the perpetrator knows.[12] After surveying more than 4,000 U.S. adults online in 2017, the Pew Research Center found that one in every fourteen people in the U.S. have experienced cyberstalking.[13] According to Assistant State Attorney Alexcia Cox, Chief of the Domestic Violence Elimination Unit, the difference between stalking and harassment comes down to a “legitimate purpose.”[14] For example, if a couple breaks up and one of them is incessantly messaging or making appearances at the other’s home in order to retrieve a personal item left there, it would likely be harassment rather than stalking.[15]

Cyberstalking Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee, FL

Whether charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, a cyberstalking charge is a serious offense that requires the diligence and expertise of a trusted criminal defense attorney. Contact a Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to explore your options and to ensure you have not been wrongfully charged with cyberstalking. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm are well versed in this area of law and will be adamant in pursuing justice on your behalf. Call a defense attorney today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your options during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

Sarah Pumphrey Law Firm







[1] F.S. 784.048

[2] Id.

[3] F.S. 775.082 and F.S. 775.083

[4] F.S. 784.048

[5] F.S. 775.082 and F.S. 775.083

[6] F.S. 784.048

[7] Id.

[8] Dana Cassidy, Florida Case Reveals Terrors of Cyberstalking, Jacksonville.com (Aug. 22, 2019), https://www.jacksonville.com/news/20190822/florida-case-reveals-terrors-of-cyberstalking/1

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

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