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A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person in Florida can be charged with the offense of stalking. While stalking is primarily thought of as the unwanted physical presence of an alleged offender, the digital age has transformed the ways in which alleged victims can be followed and harassed through electronic means.
Unwanted communications through cell phones, online messages, or social media may be considered cyberstalking in Florida. A cyberstalking offense is considered a crime of domestic violence that can result in an injunction for protection being issued against the alleged offender as well severe penalties that may include possible fines and imprisonment.
Have you been arrested or do you think that you are being investigated for an alleged cyberstalking offense in Florida? You should decline to make any kind of statement until you have legal representation.
The Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys of Pumphrey Law are dedicated to pursuing the most favorable outcomes for clients all over Madison County, Taylor County, Leon County, Calhoun County, Gulf County, and Jackson County. You can call (850) 681-7777 or complete an online contact form to receive a full review of your case during a free consultation.
Cyberstalking is defined under Florida Statute § 784.048(1)(d) as engaging in “a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” Cyberstalking offenses are generally subject to the same penalties as traditional stalking crimes.
If an alleged offender willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly cyberstalks an alleged victim, it is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Like many other state laws for cyberstalking, Florida provides no definition for substantial emotional distress, which has left the meaning open to some interpretation of various state courts.
In its 1998 decision in Wallace v. Van Pelt, the Missouri Court of Appeals interpreted the phrase to mean that “the offending conduct must produce a considerable or significant amount of emotional distress in a reasonable person; something markedly greater than the level of uneasiness, nervousness, unhappiness or the like which are commonly experienced in day to day living.” The following year, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District ruled in People v. Ewing, “At the very least, we can safely assume that the phrase means something more than everyday mental distress or upset. In other words, the phrase ‘substantial emotional distress’ entails a serious invasion of the victim’s mental tranquility.”
Alleged offenders can be charged with aggravated stalking in Florida if they do any of the following:
A credible threat is defined under Florida Statute § 784.048(1)(c) as a verbal or nonverbal threat—or a combination of the two—including threats delivered by electronic communication or implied by a pattern of conduct, which places the alleged victim in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members or individuals closely associated with the person, and which is made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause such harm. A prosecutor does not need to prove that the alleged offender making the threat had the intent to actually carry out the threat.
Aggravated cyberstalking is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
If an alleged offender intended to cross or state lines to carry out a credible threat or an alleged cyberstalking offense involved communication transmitted through interstate or foreign commerce, the crime could be subject to federal prosecution. The three primary federal statutes under which cyberstalking charges may be brought include:
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If you believe that you could be the target of a criminal investigation or you have already been arrested for an alleged cyberstalking offense, it is in your best interest to refuse to say anything until you have legal counsel. Pumphrey Law represents clients accused of many crimes of domestic violence and fights to get criminal charges reduced or dismissed.
Our experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys defend residents of communities in and around Leon County, including Perry, Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka, Blountstown, Graceville, Malone, Marianna, and many more. You can receive a complete evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation as soon as you call (850) 681-7777 or fill out an online contact form.
This article was last updated on Thursday, August 4, 2016
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.
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