As our lives become increasingly digitized, cyberstalking has emerged as a serious and growing problem. Cyberstalking is a form of online harassment that involves using electronic communication to repeatedly harass, intimidate, or threaten another person. In response to this growing issue, New York has enacted specific laws related to cyberstalking, which carry significant criminal penalties for those convicted. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will explore New York cyberstalking laws in detail, including what behaviors are considered cyberstalking, the legal consequences for those convicted, and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of cyberstalking.
What Is Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking is a form of online harassment or abuse that involves using electronic communication to repeatedly harass, intimidate, or threaten another person. This behavior can take many forms, including sending unwanted emails, text messages, or social media messages, or creating fake online profiles or accounts to harass or monitor a victim. Cyberstalkers may also use technology to track a victim’s movements or activities online, which can be particularly frightening or invasive. Cyberstalking can cause significant emotional distress and can be a serious threat to a victim’s safety and well-being. It is considered a criminal offense in many states, including New York, and can result in significant legal consequences for those convicted.
Some instances of cyberstalking include:
- Using a device to track another person and storing that information
- Monitoring one’s internet history
- Monitoring one’s online presence or internet history
- Using technology to harass or threaten someone
- Using technology to threaten
- Causing emotional distress in the victim
- Causing the victim reasonable fear of death or injury
Is Cyberstalking A Crime In NY?
Yes, cyberstalking is considered a crime in New York. In fact, it is specifically addressed in the state’s Penal Law, which defines the offense as “a course of conduct or repeated acts of harassment directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others.”
Under New York law, cyberstalking is typically prosecuted as a form of harassment. This means that a person may be charged with cyberstalking if they engage in a pattern of behavior designed to harass or intimidate someone online, through social media, or other electronic means. This can include sending threatening messages, repeatedly contacting the victim, posting false or damaging information about the victim, or using other tactics to cause fear or distress.
What New York Laws Cover Cyberstalking?
Stalking is covered by numerous laws in New York. The statutes known as N.Y. Penal Law §§ 120.45, 120.50, 120.55, and 120.60 designate stalking as a felony that is subject to various degrees of punishment. A class D felony carries a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison for first-degree offenders.
N.Y. Penal Code 156.05, a class A misdemeanor, defines cyberstalking as the illegal use of a computer and may potentially apply to this situation. Online harassment may also result in a $500 fine or up to a year in jail, depending on the circumstances.
Elements Of Cyberstalking In New York
Under New York law, cyberstalking is defined as a pattern of behavior or repeated acts of harassment that are directed at a specific person through electronic means, such as the internet, social media, email, or text messaging. The following are some of the key elements that must be present for a behavior to be considered cyberstalking in New York:
- A course of conduct: The behavior must involve a series of actions rather than a single incident. The course of conduct must be directed at a specific person and must be intended to cause that person harm or fear.
- Harassment: The behavior must be designed to harass, annoy, or alarm the victim. This can include sending unwanted messages or emails, making threatening or offensive comments, or engaging in any other behavior that is intended to cause emotional distress.
- Electronic communication: The behavior must involve the use of electronic means, such as the internet, social media, email, or text messaging.
- Fear for safety: The victim must reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of others as a result of the cyberstalking behavior.
- Repeated acts: The behavior must be repeated or continuous, rather than a single incident. This is to distinguish cyberstalking from isolated incidents of harassment or offensive behavior.
If all of these elements are present, then the behavior may be considered cyberstalking under New York law. Cyberstalking is a serious offense in the state, and individuals who engage in this behavior can face criminal charges, including fines, jail time, and other penalties.
What Should A Victim Do If They Are Being Stalked?
Any stalker victim or potential victim must take immediate action. Inform police enforcement as quickly as possible with complete details about each stalking event, such as the date, time, place, and other note-worthy pieces of information. The stalker must not be addressed by the victims. Even unfavorable interactions could be interpreted as encouragement by the stalker.
Screenshots of messages should be stored and utilized to identify stalkers in cases of cyberstalking. Whether the victim chooses to ignore the stalker’s messages or blocks the user, they should still refrain from replying to the stalker.
Defenses To Cyberstalking Charges
There are several potential defenses to cyberstalking charges in New York. These may include:
- Lack of intent: If the accused person did not intend to harass or intimidate the victim, or if their actions were not designed to cause fear or distress, they may have a defense against cyberstalking charges.
- Lack of a course of conduct: To be considered cyberstalking, the behavior must involve a pattern of repeated conduct. If the accused person only engaged in a single incident of harassment, they may have a defense against cyberstalking charges.
- Lack of fear or distress: The victim must have a reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of others in order for the behavior to be considered cyberstalking. If the victim did not experience fear or distress as a result of the accused person’s behavior, the accused person may have a defense against cyberstalking charges.
- Free speech: In some cases, the accused person may argue that their behavior was protected under the First Amendment’s right to free speech. However, this defense is generally not applicable if the behavior is designed to harass or intimidate the victim.
- Mistaken identity: If the accused person did not intend to target the victim in question, or if they mistakenly believed that the victim was someone else, they may have a defense against cyberstalking charges.
It is important to note that every case is unique, and the availability of defenses will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Anyone facing cyberstalking charges in New York should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand their rights and options.
Resources For Stalking Cases In New York
If you or someone you know is being stalked in New York, please contact one of the resources listed below. For more information, refer to the official New York resource guide.
New York State Crime Victims Board
New York City (800) 579-0689
Buffalo (716) 847-7992
Albany (800) 579-9541
New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence
English: (800) 942 – 6906
Spanish: (800) 942 – 6908
New York State Capital District Anti-Stalking Task Force
Stalking Resource Center