What is Cyber Stalking?

Cyber stalking is like real-life stalking in Georgia.

Most people do things online, including stalking other people, that they would never do in person. Therefore, cyber stalking is not only common, it is also often worse than live stalking. Therefore, various kinds of cyber stalking are against the law in Georgia. The state’s harassing communications law could apply, as well.

We are used to seeing one-sided stalking stories in news articles. But usually, there are two sides to every story. A Norcross criminal defense lawyer helps ensure that the judge or jury hears the defendant’s side of the story, as well as the alleged victim’s version of events. Once the court sees the entire picture, cyber stalking charges usually are not nearly as bad as they would be otherwise.

Legal Prohibitions

Legislators have recently updated the two primary anti-cyber stalking laws in an attempt to keep up with the changing nature of this crime. As always, however, legal innovations usually lag behind technological innovations.

The cyberbullying law applies to “repeated” contacts made for the purpose of “harassing, molesting, threatening, or intimidating that person or their family.”

Repeated simply means more than once. Furthermore, the law places no time period restrictions. The multiple contacts could be a day apart or a year apart. Additionally, the intent requirements in this law are extremely vague. Almost any repeated communication might be for a prohibited purpose, at least subjectively.

This section also makes it illegal to threaten bodily harm online, even a single time. Once again, the reasonableness requirement applies. More on that below.

The stalking/aggravated stalking law is a little more specific. It applies to a pattern, which implies more than twice and somewhat close together, of harassing or intimidating electronic communications.

These offenses often involve restraining order violations. Such violations are harder for a Norcross criminal defense lawyer to defend. The infraction is a violation of the court order, as opposed to the communication itself.

Possible Defenses

Unreasonableness, in one form or another, might be the best defense against a cyber bullying charge in Georgia.

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, but this protection is not absolute. Speech that poses an immediate threat to others is not protected. Non-violent and non-threatening speech or conduct is generally protected, even if it is unpopular or offensive to others. The line between protected speech and unprotected speech can be a fine one and may be worth testing if there is any ambiguity.

Furthermore, both stalking laws require proof that the victim's fearful reaction was reasonable. If a victim had a hypersensitive reaction to the conduct involved, you may have a defense that the prosecution cannot meet its burden of proving all the elements of the crime. For instance, being upset over a rude and nasty comment does not rise to the level of reasonably fearing for one's safety.

Incidentally, if a juvenile is charged with a cyber bullying violation, instead of a conviction, the judge could assess a delinquency adjudication.

Reach Out to a Gwinnett County Criminal Defense Lawyer

Cyber bullying is a vague offense that could mean serious penalties. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal law attorney in Norcross, contact Zimmerman & Associates, Attorneys at Law.