Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How a Text Message Can Land You In Jail – The Rise of Cyberstalking and Textual Harassment in Florida

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses How a Text Message Can Land You In Jail – The Rise of Cyberstalking and Textual Harassment.


Coast to coast, Cyberstalking cases are on the rise.  Over one million women and 370,000 men are stalked annually in the U.S.  The percentage of stalking cases that involve, “electronic mail or electronic communication,” and are thus considered cyberstalking continue to grow as more and more people use email and texting to communicate on a regular basis.

Why This Matters To You:

We all know that it is all too easy to hit the “Send” button when there is a flare up with a partner or acquaintance.  In fact, it is far easier to have a conflict via email or texting than it is when communicating in person as the barriers to lashing out are reduced and communication becomes less inhibited when it is done from behind a keyboard or smart phone.

Oftentimes, electronic communications can flare up as the visual cues, facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical gestures normally present in face-to-face communications are not available to parties exchanging words via the internet or cell phone.  Far too often one may unintentionally use words or phrases in their electronic communication that may be interpreted as harassing.  As emails and text messages are all too easily distributed to friends, coworkers, and relatives what may have started as a private conversation can become public very quickly and may find its way into the hands of law enforcement.

Given the above, it is no wonder that cyberstalking cases are on the rise.  What may have started out as a simple disagreement can escalate quickly, and oftentimes inadvertently take on the aspects of cyberstalking necessary to be charged as a crime.

In many Cyberstalking cases there are potential defenses that may be utilized to reduce the charges, or even have the charges dropped altogether:

·         Victim Recantation
·          Lack of Intent
·         Alibi
·         Mistaken Identity
·         Failure to Read Miranda Warnings

What To Do Next:

If You Are Arrested For Cyberstalking:

·        Don't speak to the police - ask to have an attorney present.
·        Don't give a written statement – again, ask to have an attorney present.
·        Contact an attorney immediately.

It is equally important to engage an attorney quickly as you have a very narrow window of time between when you are arrested and when the State Attorney’s Office makes a decision to file a criminal charge against you.  Hiring an attorney immediately to negotiate on your behalf with the State Attorney’s Office gives you the best chance of avoiding criminal charges for Cyberstalking.

If you have been arrested for Cyberstalking and/or Domestic Violence in St. Petersburg or Clearwater, Pinellas County, or Tampa, Hillsborough County, or Bradenton, Manatee County,  or Sarasota, FL contact a St. Petersburg Cyberstalking Attorney to discuss possible defenses that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney.