What is Cyberstalking?

By David Hammond


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.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.