Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Facebook Posts Lead to Pinellas County Cyberstalking Charges

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses how use of social media can lead to criminal charges.

Issue:

A teenager girl was recently charged with stalking after posting messages on a classmate’s Facebook page.  The posts were not necessarily threatening or intimidating, but they did contain words that could be perceived as heated or passionate.

The girls were friends who occasionally fought and were fighting at the time the messages were posted.  The individual who posted the comment suspected the other student had keyed her car, and stated so in the post, along with a comment stating, “she doesn't know what's coming to her.”

As a result of the posts, the alleged juvenile offender was suspended from school and ultimately charged with stalking by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.



Why This Matters To You:

If the criminal charges are not dropped this means almost anyone in Florida could be charged with a criminal offense for posting a thought or comment that was made in the heat of the moment on a Facebook wall or through some other form of social media.  Although to most people, posting heated words on the Internet would be against sound judgment, posting words that do not contain any direct threat or intent to cause any harm are not grounds for criminal charges as serious as stalking.

According to Florida law, stalking is defined as repeatedly following, harassing or cyberstalking another person, and is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony offense.  Cyberstalking involves directing words, images or language at a specific person through electronic communication that causes that person severe emotional distress and serves no legitimate purpose.  This type of stalking offense can lead to a misdemeanor conviction, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000.

Additionally, a conviction for a juvenile offense in Pinellas County can lead to serious repercussions if the juvenile is tried as an adult, including a possibly permanent criminal record, an inability to be admitted into certain college or graduate school programs, and ineligibility to pursue certain professions or occupations.  A juvenile could also face confinement in a juvenile detention center, loss of a driver’s license, be subject to curfew, and/or complete community service.


What To Do Next:

If you have been charged with a juvenile crime, stalking or cyberstalking in Tampa, contact a Cyberstalking Criminal Defense Lawyer in St. Petersburg to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss you 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.  Attorney Melinda Morris has specific knowledge and experience in representing juvenile and domestic violence offenders throughout Pinellas County the entire Tampa Bay, FL area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee, Sarasota, Largo, Dunedin and Bradenton).