Friday, July 29, 2011

Social Media Harassment Can Be Charged as Cyberstalking in Florida

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses how what you post on social media sites such as Facebook can get you arrested for Cyberstalking in Florida.

Issue:

In a moment of bad judgement individuals are sometimes tempted to write posts to the social media accounts of those they may know to purposefully harass the individual.  Harassment is never acceptable, but many would not consider posting to social media site a criminal offense.  The reality is that in Florida, it can be considered a crime and in some circumstances charged as Cyberstalking.

In an extreme example, recently a 24-year-old Largo, Florida man was charged with Cyberstalking in federal court and could face up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted.  The man hacked into the email accounts of 19 women, and also posted unauthorized pictures and videos of them to their Facebook pages and other Internet sites.



Why This Matters To You:

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (among others) are becoming more and more popular.  Many people don’t understand that what they post to a social media site could be construed as a crime by law enforcement.  Social media sites are becoming the defacto method to communicate, and the ease and speed by which one can immediately and without reflection post their thoughts creates the opportunity to misuse the sites to harass or cause emotional distress to another.  

Unfortunately, many social media users don’t think of or realize the consequences of posting what could be considered harassing information.  Depending on your social media security preferences, your posts may be seen by Friends, Friends of Friends, or anyone on the Internet - including law enforcement.

In Florida, anything posted on a social media site may be used as evidence of a crime and used against you in a court of law.  The State Attorney’s Office even has the ability to subpoena records from social media sites that may show user activity and content.

What To Do Next:

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 gives you the best chance of avoiding criminal charges.

If you have a been charged with a crime, contact a St. Petersburg First Time Offender Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in Cybercrimes and representing First Time Criminal Offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).