Cyberstalking is a serious federal crime. Understanding what elements prosecutors must establish can help you evaluate your options if facing charges. Knowing where the burden of proof lies makes it easier to focus your efforts when building a solid defense.
There are 5 key factors in a cyberstalking case.
1. Repeated unwanted contact
Prosecutors must show you engaged in a pattern of repeated, unwanted communication toward the other party. Isolated incidents are typically insufficient. The repeated nature of the contact indicates the intent to harass.
2. Threats or harassment
Your communications must threaten, harass or make the other party fear for their safety. Merely bothersome messages are not necessarily criminal. There must be evidence of intent to instill fear or emotional distress.
3. Reasonable fear
In 2019, 67% of those filing complaints for stalking, including cyberstalking, feared for their physical safety. The prosecution must demonstrate your conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress, such as with direct threats.
4. Use of electronic means
Cyberstalking requires the use of electronic communication like emails, social media, texts or other technology. Traditional offline stalking requires different elements. The electronic aspect defines cyberstalking.
5. Criminal intent
Prosecutors must establish that you intended to harass, threaten or intimidate the other party. If misunderstandings led to accidental distress, it weakens the case against you due to lack of intent.
Understanding the specific legal standards for cyberstalking charges can help you better understand your situation. A weakness in any element of the charges can jeopardize the case and potentially save you from a conviction.