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Florida Statute Redefines "Cyberstalking"

Beginning in October of 2012, Florida Statute 784.048 will go into effect and redefine various forms of stalking and harassment injunctions. Although terms like "stalking" and "harassment" are commonplace in regular conversation, the definitions in the updated statute differ from the everyday meaning of these words.

According to the law, to "harass" means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose. There must be a pattern of this sort of distress-causing conduct in order for the behavior to be considered harassment.

"Cyberstalking" is defined as engaging the communication (or causing an engagement of communication) consisting of words, images, or language through e-mail or other forms of electronic communication, such as Facebook or Twitter, that is directed toward a specific person and causes substantial emotional distress to that person, and serves no legitimate purpose.

Additionally, the Statute defines a "credible threat" as a verbal or nonverbal threat which places the safety of the target of the threat (or those close to them) in danger. Such a threat could be carried out by means of electronic communication (such as in a Facebook message or email), or could be observed from a "pattern of conduct" such as stalking. It is not necessary for the target of the threat to prove that the person making the threat had the intent to carry it out in order for the threat to be considered credible.

A person who harasses or cyberstalks someone else without making a credible threat could be face charges of stalking, a first-degree misdemeanor. However, a person who commits harassment and cyberstalking and presents a credible threat to the target could be accused of aggravated stalking, a third-degree felony with more substantial penalties than the misdemeanor offense.

This information is important to all Florida residents who regularly communicate using the internet. If you feel like you are being stalked or harassed and are concerned for your safety, contact law enforcement immediately. It is also prudent to contact an attorney for legal advice in such a situation.

Our firm takes on cases involving domestic violence injunctions, child support, custody battles, relocation issues, divorce, will and probate, criminal defense, personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death cases. While our main office is in Gainesville, we also handle family law matters through our satellite offices in Ocala, Chiefland, Lake City, and Palatka.

For help with your legal issue, contact the Law Offices of Stephen K. Miller for a free phone consultation at (866) 496-8752 or via email at Info@ForYourLaw.com

BY: Monica Perez-McMillen, Attorney at Law

September 13, 2012
 
 
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