Florida Cyberstalking Charges, Laws, Definitions, Penalties, and Potential Defenses
Cyberstalking is a comparatively modern and rapidly evolving type of crime that uses technology during the commission of the crime. Cyberstalking is a crime that is taken seriously by our society because many violent acts such as battery, rape, or murders were committed by individuals who engaged in cyberstalking prior to committing a violent offense against another. In the State of Florida, there are harsh, life-long penalties against those convicted of cyberstalking. If you or someone you care about has been accused of cyberstalking in the State of Florida, it is essential that you learn your legal options. Call the experienced cyberstalking defense attorneys at Musca Law to discuss your rights and legal options. Our lawyers are knowledgeable about the cyberstalking cases. Our legal professionals understand what it takes to successfully defend a client against these serious criminal charges.
Florida's Legal Definition of Cyberstalking
Under Florida Statute § 784.048 Cyberstalking Statute, the legal definition of the word "cyberstalking" means to communicating with, or causing images, words, or language to be delivered to, a certain person via electronic communication or email, without a legitimate purpose, and that causes significant emotional distress to the person being targeted. In Florida, cyberstalking also involves attempting to access or access someone else's computer systems, networks, or online accounts without having another person's consent and without a legitimate purpose, causing significant emotional suffering to someone else. In the State of Florida, the law has not defined what establishes "substantial emotional distress." However, Florida courts in many jurisdictions across the state have described this form of distress as something beyond ordinary day-to-day distress.
Cyberstalking includes many kinds of behavior, such as threatening or harassing text messages or emails, sharing or distributing private information, online bullying, and posting or sharing nude or sexual photos of another person. These actions are generally referred to as "cyberbullying" and "revenge porn" and often involve the use of social media and online forums. Cyberstalking is a crime that involves repeated occurrences and shows a pattern of unwanted conduct that is both malicious and willful.
Florida's Penalties for Cyberstalking
Depending on the facts and circumstances involved with an allegation of cyberstalking, cyberstalking may be a felony or misdemeanor level criminal charge. In Florida, usually, a first-time cyberstalking charge is a first-degree misdemeanor. According to Florida Statute § 775.082, if an individual is convicted of first-degree misdemeanor cyberstalking, the individual will be punished with up to one year in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000.
A cyberstalking charge is increased to a third-degree felony when the individual is committing cyberstalking, and this action also involves a sincere threat of bodily injury or death to the target of cyberstalking. This offense is known as aggravated cyberstalking. Aggravated cyberstalking may also be raised to felony aggravated cyberstalking in the third-degree under the following situations:
- The defendant is committing cyberstalking when a protective order, between the accuser and the accused, is in place for the following allegations: sexual violence, domestic violence, repeat violence, dating violence, or while a current court order is in place that prohibits the respondent from behavior toward the alleged victim or the alleged victim's property;
- The alleged victim involved with the cyberstalking matter is a minor child and under the age of 16 years; or
- The accused has prior convictions for indecent exposure, sexual battery, or any violations of Florida's Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act that involves the cyberstalking accuser, and the accused has been banned from contacting the alleged victim.
A felony in the third-degree is punished with up to five years in prison plus a fine of up to $5,000. If found guilty, the defendant's punishments on a cyberstalking conviction run consecutively with any preceding sentences for indecent exposure, a violation of the Florida Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, or sexual battery. Often times, the courts will impose an order that prohibits the defendant from contacting the victim for up to 10 years.
Florida's § 784.048(6) - Cyberstalking Arrests Without a Warrant in Florida
According to Florida's cyberstalking law §784.048, Subsection (6), a law enforcement officer is permitted to place an individual under arrest for cyberstalking without an arrest warrant. The law enforcement officer only needs probable cause that an individual has committed the crime of cyberstalking in the State of Florida. Also, a judge is not required by law to review any evidence in order for the accused to be arrested and charged with cyberstalking.
How to Defend Yourself Against a Charge of Cyberstalking in Florida
Florida's cyberstalking laws are vague and are subjective. Also, many of the legal terms used by Florida's cyberstalking statute have not been defined well or have not been defined at all. This creates a lot of room for arguments in a cyberstalking criminal trial. For example, the term "substantial emotional distress." This is a primary key element of the crime that must be proved by the prosecution. However, the legal phrase "substantial emotional distress" has not been clearly defined in Florida's cyberstalking statutes. An emotional text message that may be simply rude might lead to an arrest with cyberstalking criminal charges. Our attorneys work to hard to discover the best defense to argue in your case.
Contact for Your Free Consultation!
The number of cyberstalking allegations are increasing, and every case necessitates experienced legal counsel to defend. Our legal professionals will look for opportunity to discover inconsistencies in the accuser's story, and look to attack other weaknesses in the prosecution's case. Musca Law's Florida stalking defense attorneys zealously fight for our clients. We recognize what is at stake for you, and we will work hard to achieve the best possible outcome in your case.
If you or someone you care about have been arrest or accused of cyberstalking, you need experienced Florida representation. Speak with Musca Law today for your free consultation with one of our experienced Florida cyberstalking defense lawyers. Simply call our firm at 1-888-484-5057 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week).