Stalking in the Age of Social Media

As life becomes further enmeshed with technology (and social media in particular), private conversations and emotions can become all the more visible to the outside world. Our experienced South Florida criminal defense attorneys know that, in such a technology-reliant world, stalking no longer means simply following somebody around or consistently waiting for them outside of their place of work.
So-called “cyber stalking,” as defined by Section 784.048 of the Florida State Statutes, occurs when someone uses technology to communicate with someone (with no legitimate purpose) in a way that causes the recipient of the messages to become emotionally distressed.

Just last week, according to the Sun Sentinel, a North Lauderdale man was arrested for allegedly cyber stalking his ex-girlfriend. Because of the Facebook messages he sent to her, the 23-year-old man was charged with aggravated cyber stalking, with bond set at $150,000.

The man accused of and charged with cuber stalking allegedly sent 34 Facebook messages to his ex-girlfriend (a Coral Springs woman) between 9:32 PM on Sunday and 3:54 A.M. Monday, a time span of just 6 hours and 22 minutes. Some of the messages allegedly included threats against the woman and her new boyfriend.

In one of the messages, the man wrote, “If you don’t call me I swear I will kill you and your boyfriend.” Other messaged were accompanied with photographs of the man holding a gun to his head and others depicting the man aiming the gun in his mouth.
Apparently, the two — the Coral Springs woman and the man accused of cyber stalking — had dated for a few months last year. Evidently, the man has been unable to move past the failed romance.

This case brings to light three main points: the permanence of photographs, the trail left by online messages, and the ease of internet-based communication.

That photographs can be saved, distributed and used as evidence should not come as a surprise. When you take a picture of yourself doing something questionable and then send that photograph over the internet to someone else, you enter into the record a potentially damning piece of evidence. Whether or not you regret having sent the photographs after the fact, once you send them out into the world, you cannot reclaim them or permanently remove them from the internet.

The same goes for the record left by online messages such as those sent via Facebook, which are timestamped and can be used as clear evidence of what was written and to whom it was written. While it’s possible that someone could have hacked onto your account and wrote the things you’re accused of writing, when the menacing messages are paired with photographs of you implying your ability to carry-out actions that you wrote about, it’s hard to deny that you were the one behind the messages.

Lastly, it is crucial to remember that, for better and for worse, the internet provides immediate access to places and people all over the world. Gone are the days when, if you were furious and/or upset and wanted to speak to someone, you had to reflect and calm down before taking an action you might later regret. Now, you can simply open up your Facebook account and write anything that you might feel like writing at any particular moment, regardless of whether you’ll later regret it. In this way, it is evident that the internet is a tool to be used with caution.

These cases and their implications demonstrate the intricacy with which criminal defense lawyers must handle stalking cases in this day and age. If you’ve been accused of cyber stalking, please contact our criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. You can reach us by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to assisting you.

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