Online harassment crimes have similarities and differences

On behalf of Jack B. Rubin, PA posted in Internet Crimes on Friday, November 20, 2015.

Among the Internet-related acts that may attract the attention of law enforcement officials are cyberbullying, cyberstalking and cyberharassment. And while some may believe these terms are synonymous, the National Conference of State Legislatures actually describes them as being three different acts.

In particular, cyberharassment and cyberbullying may be thought by some as interchangeable. But, cyberbullying is generally considered electronic bullying or harassment carried out by minors and is often related to matters concerning school. On the other hand, the term cyberharassment typically refers to the use of instant messages, texts, email messages, or other means of online communication to harass, threaten or torment someone.

Cyberstalking is an act carried out in the same manner as cyberharassment, with one very important difference; an act of cyberstalking carries with it a very credible threat to the person who is on the receiving end of the communications. On the other hand, cyberharassment does not have an element of a credible threat.

According to information on the NCSL website, Maryland has laws covering cyberharassment, but not cyberstalking. This means that at present, there may not be a clear legal distinction between the two acts according to state laws.

It can be all too easy for an individual to send messages that are perceived by a recipient as being genuinely threatening. And while sending such messages may demonstrate a momentary lapse of judgment, it does not indicate the sender meant to do real harm.

Therefore, if you are ever charged with cyberharassment, you may want to contact a criminal defense attorney who handles cases involving Internet-related crimes. The attorney could help you prepare a defense that helps explain your side of the story, which in turn could lead to lessening or eliminating your potential penalties.

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