on May 12, 2011
Welcome to Legal Musings where I talk about the law and…stuff. Often copyright or writing issues…sometimes not.
Well…first of all, there isn’t one set definition to cyberstalking. As close as we get is “the use of technology to stalk victims—shares some characteristics with real-life stalking. It involves the pursuit, harassment, or contact of others in an unsolicited fashion initially via the Internet and e-mail.” National Institution of Justice.
When I thought about doing a post about cyber talking, I assumed that there would be a strong federal law dealing with it. NOT. Now, for those of you who haven’t taken a government class in a while…keep in mind that the states have their own laws. So New York may have a tough cyber stalking law while Oregon may not. Or visa versa. I don’t know because I haven’t looked yet. I’m more interested in federal law right now.
But…I truly thought there would be a strong federal law. The main federal cyber-stalking law we have is incorporated in the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005, where Congress extended the Federal interstate stalking statute to include cyberstalking (18 U.S.C. §2261 A). But, this overall Act mainly deals with domestic violence situations…and many cyber stalkers are strangers.
If there is an actual threat made by a cyber stalker, 18 U.S.C. §875(c),makes it a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. But there has to be a THREAT made. The law hasn’t really been challenged, so it’s unclear whether or not it applies when a stalker harasses someone using a chat room or bulletin board.
Another federal statute, 47 U.S.C. §223, makes it a federal crime to harass someone over the telephone. But, violating this section results only in a misdemeanor, punishable by not more than two years in prison.
If you are being harassed or stalked via the internet…you should go to your local police. Find out if your state has decent stalking laws—some do. Then move on to the federal authorities. But so far, the strongest laws are in the states, and not federally.
DISCLAIMER: This is not intended to be legal advice…and the mermaid is not naked. Really. She’s dressed. This is a great place for you to start your research…not to rely on for legal advice. I’m an awesome lawyer. But I’m not your lawyer. Frankly, I’d rather write about vampires in my jammies than dress up and go fight with some windbag in court. So again…not legal advice.