Incidents of cyberstalking have been on the increase because of the huge growth of available technology and devices to communicate with others. A computer, tablet, or cellphone have become the go-to weapons of choice for the modern stalker. The internet and email have made it quick and easy to cyber stalk someone.Definitions of cyberstalking.
According to Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Pocket Edition, cyberstalking is defined as:
“the act of threatening, harassing or annoying someone through multiple e-mail messages, as through the Internet, esp. with the intent of placing the recipient in fear that an illegal act or an injury will be inflicted on the recipient or a member of the recipient’s family or household.”
Utah Code § 76-5-106.5 describes stalking in general as following a course of conduct directed at a specific person, even knowing, or having reason to believe, that this conduct and behavior would cause the victim to fear for their safety and/or induce emotional distress. The section of this law that would entail cyberstalking specifically states its use of:
“a computer, the Internet, text messaging, or any other electronic means to commit an act that is a part of the course of conduct.”What can you do if you are a victim?
There is no physical contact or assault with cyberstalking crimes, but the emotional turmoil, anxiety, and personal fear for their safety that the victim experiences can feel just as real as if they had been physical stalked. But there are procedures and penalties that could protect you from further incidents.
If you are in fear and have experienced at least two (2) incidents of stalking, you may file for a civil stalking injunction to have the court order the stalker to cease their conduct. If they continue and violate the injunction, they can be held criminally liable and be arrested.
If it is their first offense, they usually will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor and can get up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.
However, if they have been charged with multiple stalking offenses, if they have been charged with stalking against the same victim, or if they violated a stalking injunction, the crime will be a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of five years’ imprisonment and a fine of $5,000.
If the stalker had been convicted two or more times for similar stalking crimes, the crime may even be classified as a second-degree felony with a potential 15 year in prison and a $10,000 fine.