What Constitutes Online Harassment in Texas?
So, what exactly is online harassment? Texas law defines this crime as using an electronic device to communicate threats to someone online. This type of harassment is often committed anonymously or under a false name. The law explains that it’s illegal to imitate, impersonate, or harass anyone else on the internet. A wide range of actions falls under this scope including:
- Impersonating someone else online
- Using someone else’s e-mail, phone number, or name to post on social media accounts
- Calling 911 to someone’s home
- Attempting to defraud or harm someone else by sending information to others online
- Falsely accusing someone else online
- Posting abusive messages on a public social media account
- Bullying or “trolling” someone else online
- Sexually abusing someone else online
- Encouraging others to join in on your abuse of someone else online
- Monitoring someone else’s online activities
- Damaging someone else’s reputation with online posts
You might consider your online actions an innocent joke, but the law might not see it that way. The victim likely won’t either. Texas has put cyberstalking and cyberharassment laws into place to protect victims. If your actions wouldn’t be acceptable or legal in face to face situations, then you shouldn’t expect them to fly online. It’s also important to never make the mistake of assuming you can be “anonymous” online. Authorities have the capability of identifying your personal IP address or your devices, and they’ll likely be able to connect any “anonymous” account to your real identity.
Are you facing online harassment charges? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »
Penalties for Online Harassment
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the case, anyone charged with online harassment will face either a Class B misdemeanor or a third-degree felony. A Class B misdemeanor is not as serious as a third-degree felony, but it still carries some heavy penalties including:
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Fines up to $2,000
- Community service
A third-degree felony conviction may result in:
- Up to 10 years in prison (minimum of two years in prison)
- Fines of up to $10,000
- Community service
In Texas, getting convicted of a felony offense has life-long complications. Felons are not eligible to vote or legally purchase or own a firearm.
You Could Be Held Accountable in Civil Court, Too
On top of getting charged with a crime, you could get hit with a civil lawsuit, too. Cyberstalking and harassment can lead to a number of damages that you could get held accountable for. These damages could include a victim’s medical bills, lost wages, or emotional distress.
The victim may also decide to seek out a civil restraining order against you. These court orders will require you to not contact the victim at all. You’ll also be forced to stay a significant physical distance away from the victim, too. If you violate this civil order, then you could get charged with additional crimes.
How to Defend Yourself Against Online Harassment Charges
Once you’ve been charged, your first thought is usually – how do I defend myself? First, you need to consider what evidence the state has against you. Like we mentioned above, you usually aren’t arrested and charged without some form of evidence. Don’t think the police will just freely offer up this information, though. You might need an attorney to help you figure out what the police actually have against you.
From there, you’ll need to consider the defense strategies available to you. Here are some of the most common defenses used in online harassment charges:
- No intent to harm
- Free speech
- Your rights were violated during the arrest or questioning
The strategy you choose depends on the circumstances surrounding your charges and arrest. Consult with an attorney to figure out what strategy is best for your case.
Do I Need a Lawyer After Getting Charged with Online Harassment in Texas?
Considering the severity of the penalties associated with online harassment, it’s a good idea to hire representation if you get hit with a charge. This holds true even if you know you’re innocent. While you may think the evidence speaks for itself, a judge or jury might not see it that way, especially if the state has a very convincing prosecutor.
If you have the resources, then it’s worth it to invest in a skilled lawyer. Here’s what to look for during your search:
- A lawyer who has handled similar cases in the past
- Positive past reviews from former clients
- An attorney who has time to dedicate to your case
- A lawyer who is willing to go to trial if necessary
If you can’t afford an attorney, then you should request free representation. You should never try to defend yourself against serious charges like online harassment or cyberstalking.
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All About Online Harassment in Texas
Online trolling is no joking matter. It often bleeds over into online harassment or cyberstalking. These crimes are taken very seriously by the state of Texas, so you can expect some harsh penalties if you get convicted of this offense.
Defending yourself against online harassment is a challenge. Each case is unique, and not every defense strategy will work in your specific situation. You need an expert attorney by your side. That’s where we come in. Reach out to our experts to learn more about how we can help.