These days, it’s easy for some people to get carried away by their feelings for someone -– either positive or negative -– and harass or threaten them online or via text or email. This is why both states and the federal government have cyberstalking laws.
Michigan’s cyberstalking law covers messages posted “through the use of any medium of communication, including the internet or a computer…or another electronic medium of communication, without the victim’s consent” that could cause a “reasonable person to suffer emotional distress and to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.” Such contact can also be illegal if it violates a restraining order or a condition of parole or probation.
Here in Michigan, cyberstalking is a felony that can land a person behind bars for up to two years. It can also carry a fine of up to $5,000. That’s if no other crime was committed, such as actual physical harassment or assault of any kind.
When does cyberstalking become a federal crime?
Cyberstalking can be a federal crime if it’s carried out against someone in another state. There are multiple federal cyberstalking statutes that cover a range of actions. Some involve what’s referred to as “sextortion.”
An example of sextortion is when a person threatens to post or otherwise share compromising photos or other information they have if the other person doesn’t comply with their demands. A person might threaten to release nude photos of an ex if they don’t agree to have sex with them or otherwise rekindle their relationship. Sometimes, sextortion can also include threats of violence if the person doesn’t comply.
The person who is engaging in sextortion may not consider what they’re doing a serious crime -– or even a crime at all. The FBI thinks otherwise. As one special agent says, “It’s a violent crime” using “cyber tools to carry it out.”
If you’re facing federal charges involving cyberstalking of any kind, it’s crucial to seek experienced legal guidance. The ramifications on your future could be serious.