Phoenix attorney Ruth Carter began studying about cyberstalking and cyberharassment in Arizona when she learned that January is National Stalking Awareness month.
Carter says that when “we first started acknowledging stalking as a crime, the perpetrator had to be within physical proximity to you.” As stories emerge of young people in distress about the constant online attacks, we have become more and more aware of the true nature of the abuse and the extent to which stalkers will go to drive their prey to desperate straits.
According to Carter, the laws on cyberstalking and cyberharassment are state law crimes, so the definitions may be different depending on where you live. In Arizona, the penalties are tough. Arizona Revised Statute § 13-2923 governs the behavior:
Cyberstalking: Intentionally or knowingly engaging in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or their immediate family’s safety, including the fear of death. (Class 5 Felony); Penalty: 9 months in jail and up to a $150,000 fine.
Cyberharassment: Communicating with a person with the intent to harass them or with the knowledge that the person was being harassed. (Class 1 Misdemeanor); Penalty: Up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.
“There’s also a separate law for harassing someone via electronic communications,” Carter writes on her website (here). “The definition and penalty is the same as cyberharassment except that it specifies that it applies to harassing, intimidating, terrifying, and/or threatening someone. It seems redundant. And that’s just the criminal law side. If you cyberstalk or cyberharass someone, you may also be sued for damages in civil court.”
Cater says the take-home lessons are:
§ If you’re mad at someone or want to give them a hard time, think twice before you begin your course of action. It may not take much to cross the line into cyberharassment. The consequences might be way worse than you think.
§ If you’re being cyberharassed or cyberstalked, report it – to law enforcement, to the site or company that’s facilitating it, and possibly call a lawyer.
You can connect with Ruth Carter at her website for more information about Carter Law Firm.
Reprinted with the permission of Ruth Carter of the Carter Law Firm