What is Cyberstalking?


The crime of stalking is defined as repeatedly harassing or threatening behavior. With the growth of the internet and various social media platforms, stalking is now potentially happening both offline and online. Cyberstalking is when the harassing or threatening behavior occurs on the internet or by other electronic means. Online behavior and all of the combative dialogue that can occur online has been a hot button topic as of late. People have a heightened sensitivity to electronic communications that may cross the line. Because of this, you may have seen an increase in cyberstalking allegations being made.

What is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is considered to be a form of cyberbullying. New York takes cyberstalking cases seriously. The fact that the behavior may have been limited to online activities and not in person does not decrease the severity of the crime. Especially considering how much personal information can be found online. A person can find someone else’ physical address, place of employment, or telephone all too easily. This means that the harassing behavior can quickly go offline to in person.

Under New York State law, stalking is considered to be conduct focused on a particular individual that would put a reasonable person in fear of a future act of imminent violence. With cyberstalking, the conduct generally involves repeatedly sending unwanted electronic communications. Cyberstalking is considered to be a Class B misdemeanor. Penalties for a person convicted of cyberstalking may include fines totaling up to $5,000 and up to 7 years in prison.

Depending on the nature of the offense and whether any aggravating circumstances were involved, the offense may rise to that of third degree stalking, a Class A misdemeanor, or second degree stalking, a Class E felony. In the most serious stalking cases, the offense may be classified as first degree stalking, a Class D felony. Circumstances that would lead to an increase in the severity of the stalking charge include:

  • The defendant was 21 or older and the alleged victim was younger than 14
  • The defendant has prior stalking convictions
  • The stalking behavior included threats to commit certain sex crimes

The most common defense to a charge of cyberstalking is that the electronic communications were not really threatening. Online discussions can quickly get heated and inflammatory marks run a plenty these days, but this does not mean a person is guilty of cyberstalking. The behavior must be repeatedly harassing or threatening in nature. It must be viewed as the kind of behavior that would put a reasonable person in fear of imminent harm. If this threshold has not been met, then the crime of cyberstalking has not occurred.

Defending those Accused of Online Crimes

The fact that you may have been a little more aggressive online or that your behavior was directed at someone who may have been highly sensitive does not mean that you should be convicted of cyberbullying. It is a serious crime and carries many highly personal consequences for a person who is convicted. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at CDH Law will help you fight a charge of cyberbullying. Contact us today.

If I Flip Off a Cop, Can I Get Arrested?

Do you sometimes have the urge to flip off a cop? If so, you are not alone. There are many examples of people who have flipped off a cop and paid the price. However, many of those individuals successfully filed lawsuits to protect their constitutional rights. While “giving the finger” to a cop in New York may not be a crime, it can result in an arrest that you must fight. If you are arrested, exercise your right to remain silent and contact a New York criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Court Rulings Regarding Hand Gestures Given to Police Officers

An officer pulled a woman over for speeding in Michigan, but the officer was merciful when he issued the ticket. The driver flipped the officer off when driving away. The officer then pulled the woman over a second time and issued a ticket for the maximum penalty for her traffic violation.

The woman filed a lawsuit claiming the officer violated her constitutional rights. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled the second stop was unjustified because the driver had not broken any laws and “at most was exercising her free speech rights.”  Judge Sutton specifically stated in the opinion that a lack of gratitude or fits of rudeness might break the Golden Rule, but that does not make it illegal.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth District also ruled in favor of a young girl who had “extended both middle fingers” toward police officers when she was eleven. She was arrested and sued for violation of her constitutional rights, among other allegations. The judge stated in part that her “gesture was crude, not criminal.”

In another case appealed from New York to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a passenger in a vehicle was arrested on several charges after “giving the finger” to an officer as the car passed the officer’s vehicle. The judge noted that the “ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.” The court reversed and remanded the case to the lower court.

The above cases are just a few of the lawsuits brought around the country by individuals who have been arrested or suffered other consequences for “giving the finger” to a law enforcement officer.

It May Be Considered Freedom of Speech, But It is Not Recommended

While courts have ruled that your constitutional rights extend to flipping off a cop, that does not mean it is a good idea. You might eventually have the charges filed against you dismissed because the charges were not based on probable cause or a violation of the law. You might even win a lawsuit against the officers and other parties for violating your constitutional rights. However, before you are vindicated, you will deal with the cost, inconvenience, and other negative consequences of being arrested. A lawsuit may take years to resolve, and you are not guaranteed a specific outcome.

It is best to be smart when you interact with law enforcement officers. You have the right and freedom to express yourself, but the rude gesture could snowball into criminal charges that may not be able to be dismissed.

Contact a New York Criminal Defense Attorney for Help

Officer misconduct is a serious issue. If you believe your rights were violated or your criminal charges are in retaliation for another matter, you need an experienced Syracuse, NY criminal defense attorney to help you fight for justice.  You have the right to legal counsel. It is always a wise idea to exercise that right whenever you are facing criminal charges. Contact one of our New York criminal defense attorneys today.