Cyberstalking Defense Attorneys in Florida
The crime of cyberstalking is still relatively new and is evolving with rapidly changing technology. Florida takes cyberstalking seriously, and state law imposes harsh penalties on those convicted of the crime.
If you have been accused of cyberstalking in Florida, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Musca Law to discuss your case. Our attorneys are familiar with the issues involved in these cases, and we know what it takes to successfully defend the charges.
How Does Florida Law Define Cyberstalking?
Florida Statute § 784.048 governs the crime of cyberstalking. Under § 784.048(1)(d), the term “cyberstalking” means the act of communicating with, or causing words, images, or language to be communicated to, a specific person through email or other electronic communication, having no legitimate purpose and causing substantial emotional distress to the targeted person. Cyberstalking also includes accessing or attempting to access another person’s online accounts or systems without that person’s permission and with no legitimate purpose, resulting in substantial emotional distress to the targeted person.
The law does not define what constitutes “substantial emotional distress.” However, courts in multiple jurisdictions have characterized this type of distress as something more than day-to-day upset or uneasiness.
Cyberstalking encompasses numerous types of conduct, including harassing or threatening texts or electronic messages, online bullying, sharing or distributing private information, and sharing or posting nude or sexually suggestive photos of a person. These acts are also commonly referred to as “cyberbullying” and “revenge porn” and frequently involve the use of online forums and social media. As a crime, cyberstalking involves repeated incidents and a pattern of unwanted behavior that is both willful and malicious.
Florida’s Varying Penalties for Cyberstalking
Depending on the circumstances involved in a case, cyberstalking can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. For a first offense of cyberstalking, a person will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. This level of misdemeanor can be punished by up to one year of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000, according to Florida Statute § 775.082.
The charge can move from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony if the behavior is accompanied by a credible threat of death or bodily injury. This is known as aggravated cyberstalking. The charge can also be elevated to a third-degree felony for aggravated cyberstalking under the following conditions:
- The defendant commits the offense of cyberstalking while a protective order is in place related to domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, or repeat violence, or while another court order is in place prohibiting the defendant from conduct toward the targeted person or that person’s property;
- The targeted person in the cyberstalking case is a minor child under the age of 16 years; or
- The defendant has a prior conviction for sexual battery, indecent exposure, or a violation of the Florida Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act involving the targeted person, and the defendant was prohibited from contacting that person.
A third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Any punishment ordered on a cyberstalking conviction will run consecutive to any prior sentences for sexual battery, indecent exposure, or violation of the Florida Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act. The sentence imposed for cyberstalking may also include an order prohibiting the defendant from contacting the targeted person for up to 10 years.
If you have been accused of or charged with cyberstalking, it is important to take the allegations seriously. You need to seek the services of an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to understand the potential ramifications and to begin working on a defense. Musca Law will help you analyze the charges and accusations and will provide valuable legal guidance about the steps necessary to defend your liberties.
Cyberstalking Arrests Without a Warrant in Florida
Subsection (6) of Florida’s cyberstalking law ( § 784.048(6)) allows a law enforcement officer to arrest a person for cyberstalking without a warrant. The officer need only have probable cause to believe that the person has committed cyberstalking.
This is important to note because it means that a judge does not have to review any evidence against a person before that person can be arrested for cyberstalking. The information amounting to probable cause for one officer might be different for another, and a thorough analysis of the facts might not take place until after someone’s life has already been affected by an arrest for this serious charge.
Your attorney will ensure that the right information is in front of the judge or jury to dispute the charges and avoid a conviction. Musca Law’s cyberstalking defense lawyers know how difficult these cases can be for all parties involved, and we zealously fight for our clients. We understand what is at stake for you, and will work to achieve the best possible outcome.
Defending a Cyberstalking Case in Florida
Florida’s laws on cyberstalking have been criticized as vague and subjective. Several terms in the cyberstalking statute are not well defined or not defined at all, which can leave too much room for innocent people to be charged. For instance, the term “substantial emotional distress,” which is one of the key elements of the crime, is not defined in the statute. Communications that might otherwise have been considered simply rude can now result in arrests and criminal charges.
The prevalence of cyberstalking cases is increasing, and each case requires knowledgeable legal counsel to defend. Our attorneys will look at every angle of the charges to identify inconsistencies in the story, communications that fall outside of the purview of the statute, and other weaknesses in the state’s case.
Contact Musca Law Today for a Free Consultation!
If you have been charged with or accused of cyberstalking in Florida, you need experienced representation. Contact Musca Law today for a free consultation with one of our skilled Florida stalking defense attorneys. You can reach us to schedule your case review by calling (888) 484-5057.