Cyberstalking and Legal Ramifications

Social media plays such a large role in the world that we live in, affecting how friends keep in touch, how people do business, and even how people date. The cyberworld, and our connection to others, is just at the end of our fingertips on a phone, an iPad, a tablet, or laptop. Though there are many benefits to being connected by the cyberweb, instant access can also be detrimental in that privacy can be easily violated, whether unintentionally or intentionally through cyberstalking.

Cyberstalking seems to have become an extension of natural curiosity. Thanks to the internet, almost any person, place, or thing can be easily found. A job applicant can search for a company’s history online, and potential employers can easily view the job applicant’s personal information just by entering his or her name into an online search engine. Similarly, if someone wants to find information about a blind date, or if someone wants to check up on the status of a former partner, they can easily do so online.

How to know when you are crossing the line by cyberstalking

Though searching for an individual on the web may be relatively harmless, if you cannot discern between online viewing and cyberstalking, you may run the risk of crossing the line from harmless to harassment. For this reason, it is important to know what constitutes as harassment. Think of it this way, while it is perfectly normal to look at a person from across the street or to start a conversation with the person next to you on the bus, you are crossing the line into stalking territory when you continue to follow the person down the street, or when you continue with a conversation knowing that the person you are talking to is clearly uncomfortable and/or offended. Cyberstalking can also result from taking a situation too far.

To help keep you from crossing the line, here are some examples of cyberstalking:

  • Sending threatening or harassing emails
  • Excessively logging onto or looking at someone’s social media account (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+)
  • Looking up someone’s person information when they have a restraining order against you
  • Using online verbal abuse
  • Leavening threatening or improper messages

Cyberstalking may occur if anyone perceives that he or she is being threatened in anyway, or if his or her life is in danger. It is important to remember that while intent may play a role in how you are sentenced for cyberstalking, in the end, it is the result of your actions that may lead to a conviction on your criminal record.

The Terms and Penalties of Cyberstalking

As per California Penal Code 646.9. (a), “any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.”
The penalty for cyberstalking may include:

  • Imprisonment in county jail for up to one year
  • A fine of up to $1,000.00
  • Imprisonment and a fine
  • Imprisonment in state prison

Does Cyberstalking Violate Restraining Orders?

If the person who you have been cyberstalking has a restraining order, injunction, or any other court order prohibiting you from coming into contact with them, you may be violating the terms of the court order. Any act that causes someone to feel as though his or her safety is in danger could technically result in the violation of a retraining order and as such can result in disciplinary legal action.

Expunging a Cyberstalking Charge from Your Criminal Record

If you were charged for cyberstalking, the only way to remove the charge from your record is to have the cyberstalking offense expunged. Regardless of whether your cyberstalking offense resulted from inadvertently sending poorly worded emails, or from deliberately looking up your ex’s social media accounts even after a restraining order has been enacted, you could end up being followed by your criminal record. Fortunately, expunging your cyberstalking offense from your criminal record will allow you to legally deny the occurrence of the offense and the related case. You should have an attorney that specializes in expungement handle your case. You can even handle it all online through companies such