Cyberstalking in the State of Washington (Potential Penalties)
As the Internet has become a pinnacle of communication and commerce, cybercrime has been on the rise since around 2015 throughout the United States. Cyberstalking is one of many prevalent cybercrimes in today’s highly digital world. Cyberstalking is defined in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) as using someone’s electronic communication to “harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass.” Cyberstalking can arise out of various forms of conduct which does not include spoken telephone conversations, since that falls under Telephone Harassment. Cyberstalking can be either classified as a gross misdemeanor or a felony depending on the aggravating factors of the case.
What is Cyberstalking?
Any form of electronic communication, excluding telephone communication that is used to “harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass” counts as Cyberstalking. Common forms of communication in which cyberstalking occurs includes texts, emails, or even comments made on social media posts. Additionally, installing or monitoring someone’s whereabouts with a tracking device also falls under the umbrella of Cyberstalking according to the Revised Code of Washington.
What are the possible penalties for Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is assessed by the “aggravating factors” of the specific circumstance. Depending on the circumstances and facts of a case, Cyberstalking can either be a Gross Misdemeanor or Felony charge.
Gross Misdemeanor: First offense cyberstalking convictions are often classified into the gross misdemeanor category. A gross misdemeanor charge can carry penalties of jail time reaching up to 364 days, or up to a $5,000.00 fine.
Class C Felony: There are a number of different aggravating factors that elevate Cyberstalking from a gross misdemeanor to a Class C felony. Two of the most common ones tend to be prior convictions, or the violation of a protection order. Having a previous Cyberstalking conviction in any state prior will potentially elevate the most current charge to a Class C felony. Violating a protection order can also constitute Cyberstalking as a Class C felony. For example texting or emailing someone while a protection order is active will not only count as a violation of the protection order, but you will also potentially be charged with Cyberstalking in addition to the original violation. Each message or email you send can count as a violation against your protection order, which can stack up quickly as well.
Potential defenses against Cyberstalking
There are a number of defenses an attorney can use to defend against alleged cyberstalking charges. Some of these defenses include:
- Lack of intent: Cyberstalking requires that the defendant acted knowingly and without consent.
- False accusations: In some cases, the alleged victim may make false accusations of cyberstalking to retaliate against the defendant or gain some advantage. A skilled defense attorney can work to demonstrate that the allegations are baseless and lack credibility.
- Lack of evidence: To secure a conviction for cyberstalking, the prosecution must present sufficient evidence of the defendant’s actions. If the evidence is insufficient to support the allegations, the defendant may be acquitted.
- Mistaken identity: In some cases, the alleged victim may have mistaken the defendant for someone else. A defense attorney can investigate the case to determine if any evidence supports the defendant’s claim that they were not the perpetrator.
Ultimately, the key to mounting a successful defense in a cyberstalking case is to work with an experienced attorney who has a deep understanding of the relevant laws and legal procedures.
At the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer, we have the experience and expertise necessary to provide our clients with the aggressive defense they need.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help protect your rights and interests.