Our increasingly technical society has changed the way we do nearly everything. From banking to grocery shopping and even working, technology is a big part of everyday life—especially now, with Zoom conferences and online collaboration platforms like Slack and Asana. As we learn how to use each new app and tool and find ways to live and work better, others have discovered ways to misuse technology to their ill intent.
Technology-facilitated stalking, commonly known as “cyberstalking,” is the act of stalking another individual with the addition of technology, including:
- Smartphones and other mobile devices
- GPS devices (for following individuals while driving)
- Phone calls
- Social media messages
- Hacking into a victim’s online account, whether email, financial, or other accounts
Cyberstalking can also be from different individuals known to the victim, such as neighbors, friends of friends, relatives, or coworkers, or may even be strangers. Whatever the case, an individual who is a target of cyberstalking finds themselves experiencing a persisting and strategic campaign of different types of online abuse intended to harass, threaten, and humiliate an individual to control and intimidate a victim. Other forms of abuse include financial abuse and an attempt to isolate the victim from supportive family and friends.
A cyberstalker can be anyone from a casual acquaintance to someone well known, or someone you’ve never met. Many cases of stalking and cyberstalking are from former spouses, domestic partners, or significant others, like the recent case of Dr. Aime Hardwick in California. While Dr. Hardwick had previously obtained a restraining order against ex-boyfriend Gareth Pursehouse, it had expired just two weeks before her death. Pursehouse had repeatedly stalked Dr. Hardwick for over ten years, followed her around in public as well as online. Repeated attempts to stop his endless stalking and harassment failed.
North Carolina Laws On Cyberstalking
North Carolina considers stalking to be when an individual willfully harasses another on more than two occasions without any legal reason, and:
- Causes the individual to fear for themselves, a family member, or another person they are close to (such as a spouse or partner)
- Or causes extreme fear in a person for bodily injury, death, or persistent and recurrent harassment
- The use of email or other electronic communications (including social media) is deployed to threaten a person, a relative (spouse, children, etc.) to extort property and/or money
- Using email or other electronic media to threaten, abuse, or otherwise harass an individual, even when there is no conversation
- Emailing an individual or a family member with false statements regarding criminal or indecent conduct, injury, illness, disfigurement, or death with the intent to terrify, threaten, or otherwise abuse.
- Knowingly placing an electronic tracking device under a victim’s control (such as on a car or in a woman’s purse) to monitor their locations (exceptions for law enforcement, fleet vehicles, and other legitimate purposes.) This can include an individual who intentionally allows a cyberstalker to use his or her device to harass another person, such as a smartphone or tablet.
Social media can include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. North Carolina law does not require that the victim believe the threatening statements, or that the “reasonable person” would believe them.
Technology-related stalking, or cyberstalking, is a Class 2 misdemeanor. A conviction can bring 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If You Are Charged With Cyberstalking
Much will depend on the circumstances and facts surrounding the arrest. Should you find yourself charged with cyberstalking, there may be defenses available, even if you are technically “guilty.” The charges may be reduced to something less serious. A conviction will leave you with a criminal record and the consequences that come with it.
For a free consultation regarding your stalking or cyberstalking charges with the lawyers at the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley, call our Raleigh law office immediately at 919-832-0307 to make an appointment. We offer a free consultation to discuss your case and will begin building a strong and effective defense for you.