Definition and Aspects of Cyber Harassment:
With technology being so readily available to everyone, a lot of communication now takes place indirectly. Unfortunately, with the benefits technology brings to society, somebody can just as quickly use it to inflict harm. If a person maliciously utilizes online outlets or electronics to instill fear or worry into someone else’s life or cause serious inconvenience, they can potentially face serious consequences.
Under California Penal Code 653.2 (PC 653.2), it is against the law to send electronic communication with the intent of projecting fear to the recipient or the recipient’s family. Cyber harassment is a misdemeanor offense, which can result in up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
To be convicted of California Penal Code 653.2 (PC 653.2), the Prosecution must prove the following:
- The Defendant published an email, post, photo, or hyperlink through an electronic communication device that contained personally identifying information or a message of harassment toward another
- The Defendant published the above content without the knowledge and consent of the Victim
- The Defendant’s purpose was to cause the victim fear, injury, harassment, or unwanted physical contact
- The Defendant wanted to awaken fear in the Victim for his/her safety – or the safety of the Victim’s immediate family
- The content posted would reasonably produce the harmful outcome intended
Under this statute, harassment can be done directly or indirectly. Indirect harassment refers to the involvement of a third party. This means that the Defendant posted something on the internet that encourages others to stalk, assault, or harass the alleged Victim.
Electronic harassment refers to the act of purposefully igniting fear in another, via a message or content posted online or using electronic devices, with the intention of harassing, terrorizing, scaring, or tormenting the other person. Harassment generally does not serve a legitimate purpose; rather, it is used to elicit an emotional reaction.
Criminal Offenses Related to Cyber Harassment:
Similar or related offenses to California Penal Code 653.2 (PC 653.2), cyber harassment:
- Assault – California Penal Code 240 (PC 240)
- Battery – Assault – California Penal Code 242 (PC 242)
- Unauthorized Audio Recording & Wiretapping – California Penal Code 631/632 (PC 631) & (PC 632)
- Stalking – California Penal Code 646.9 (PC 646.9)
- Invasion of Privacy – California Penal Code 647(j) (PC 647(j))
Example of Cyber Harassment:
A man acquires a large following on his social media pages due to his extensive knowledge of sports. However, when he suspects his wife of being unfaithful, he tweets out her personal phone number, urging his sizeable number of followers to call and harass her. Regardless of whether or not the wife is guilty of what she is being accused of, the man could be charged with California Penal Code 653.2 (PC 653.2) because his actions knowingly meant to instill fear and discomfort into his wife, using his online following.
Defenses to Cyber Harassment:
One defense questions the intention of the Defendant when posting online messages. If the content posted meant to be humorous or teasing and turned out to instill fear in another, California Penal Code 653.2 (PC 653.2) would not necessarily apply. The charges could be dropped since one of the requirements Prosecution has to prove is the intention to instill fear or discomfort into the Victim.
The Defendant could’ve also posted the content on accident. If a message or post was never meant to get out but stay in the privacy of the Defendant, the case could be dismissed.
Additionally, if the police officials obtained evidence against the Defendant without a proper warrant, or the arrest was not carried out lawfully, and the Defendant’s rights were violated, the evidence would be inadmissible in court, and the case could be tossed.
Consequences and Penalty for Cyber Harassment:
California Penal Code 653.2 (PC 653.2) is a misdemeanor offense. Cyber harassment is punishable with up to $1,000 in fines and up to 1 year in county jail. If convicted, it could also result in court-mandated probation time. Furthermore, depending on the seriousness of the harassment, a restraining order can be placed against the Defendant, preventing any further contact with the Victim.
Cyber Harassment, under California Penal Code 653.2 (PC 653.2), is a misdemeanor that can result in jail time, fines, and probation. It is important that if you or someone you know is charged with cyber harassment, you contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
For an experienced attorney on your side, Action Lavitch from Action Defense Lawyers is available 24/7 at (747) DEFEND U or (747) 333-3638. With a proven track record with harassment-related charges and speaking both English and Spanish, Action Lavitch and the team from Action Defense Lawyers provide skilled legal representation and professional advice. Having an above 90% success rate for clients, Action Defense Lawyers is the go-to for those charged with California Penal Code Section 653.2 (PC 653.2), Cyber Harassment. Book a free consultation today.