Between the wonders of the internet and the proliferation of social media, you can find everything you could possibly want to know about someone just by looking them up online. Photographs, marital status, friends, hobbies and interests, and sometimes even what they had for dinner last night, can all be obtained easily with just a few mouse clicks. It is not uncommon to do a search or scan the Facebook page of someone we like or are interested in, or even someone we do not like, or have religious, political, or philosophical differences with. It is also not uncommon to voice our opinions about people, their views, and their actions, and social media allows us to communicate our thoughts easily with others, whether they are across town or in another country. When does this freedom of information and the right to express ourselves cross the line? Cyberstalking and online harassment have become hot topics. While hitting the ‘like’ button, commenting on a person’s status, or obtaining information on someone via a Google search may seem like innocent behaviors, it can result in criminal charges if your attentions are unwanted.
According to the National Institute of Justice, stalking is a crime that involves nonconsensual communication with another, and involves verbal or written communications that may appear to be in some way threatening or bizarre to the person on the receiving end. Cyberstalking involves using technology to communicate with another person in an unsolicited manner. This communication can occur via email, in chat rooms, or on social media, and can also take the form of assuming the other person’s identity or persona on web pages or within the cyber community.
Under Section 16-3-1700 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, stalking is a criminal matter when it involves a pattern of conduct or communication that serves no legitimate purpose, and causes the person who is targeted to fear any of the following to themselves or a member of their family:
- Damage to property;
- Criminal sexual conduct and sexual assault;
- Kidnapping; and
Stalking is a felony offense, and the penalties may include fines up to $5,000 and as much as five years in jail. These penalties increase with each offense committed, or if a restraining order has been issued by the court in the matter.
Listed under the same legal statutes as stalking, harassment is considered a pattern of intentional and unreasonable intrusion into the life of the targeted person. The contact serves no reasonable purpose, is unwanted, and causes the person who receives the communication some type of mental or emotional distress, such as anxiety, fear, or worry. A person who initiates contact with another via email or social media, repeatedly contacting this person and causing mental or emotional distress, may be charged under Section 16-3-1710 of the SC Code of laws with harassment in the second degree. This charge is a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to several hundred dollars and 30 days of jail time, and the penalties increase if the person has been previously convicted of harassment or stalking within the past ten years. If the alleged harassment moves beyond the internet to contact at a person’s home or place of business, you could be charged with harassment in the first degree, which carries a potential jail sentence of up to three years.
Contact Our Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you are facing criminal harassment or stalking charges, contact our experienced South Carolina criminal defense attorney today. Greenville attorney Lauren M. Taylor of Lauren Taylor Law offers aggressive legal defense in a variety of criminal matters, and can help to ensure your rights are protected. We provide effective, efficient legal representation, and can strategize the best course of defense in your particular case. Serving Greenville and all of Upstate South Carolina, call or contact us online today for a free review of your case.
South Carolina divorce attorney Lauren Taylor practices family law in Charleston and Greenville. She graduated from the Charlotte School of Law, and has been practicing for more than ten years.
Since the firm’s inception in 2012, Mrs. Taylor has helped hundreds of people navigate the uncertainties surrounding the family and criminal court process.
She has cultivated a team that ensures each case has a strategy crafted specifically to the clients needs and desires.
Her commitment to top notch service has led her to open two additional offices in the low country where she now resides with her husband Michael and her golden retriever, Buster.