Bullying has always been a cause for concern among young people in our country. However, in the era of social media and constant internet use, that concern has become heightened. Cyberbullying, which has become more prevalent in recent years, is a form of bullying that occurs through electronic devices such as phones or computers, and often takes place over social media, text, email, and gaming platforms according to Security.org. Additionally, cyberbullying often take the form of sending or sharing harmful or malicious content about someone to embarrass them. Often times, the content is shared anonymously, which makes cyberbullying not only concerning, but difficult to punish. In fact, as of January 2020, 44 percent of all internet users in the U.S. said that they’ve experienced online harassment or a form of cyberbullying. Under Mississippi law, an individual who engages in cyberbullying can face charges for cyberstalking, sending obscene or harassing electronic communications, stalking, and aggravated stalking.
What is Cyberstalking?
Similar to cyberbullying, cyberstalking is a related crime that involves the use of electronic communication to harass or threaten someone with some type of physical harm. Cyberstalking occurs when an offender uses any form of electronic communication (most commonly email, messaging, or texting) to:
- Threaten to harm another person or their family or property
- Extort money or other valuables from another individual
- Threaten, terrify, or otherwise harass a victim through repeated contracts, or
- Make knowingly false statements regarding a person or their family with the intent of threatening, terrifying, or harassing them.
Under Mississippi law, cyberstalking is classified as a felony, meaning the offender can face up to two (2) years in prison as well as a $5,000 fine. Importantly, if the offense occurs in violation of a restraining order or a condition of parole, probation, or pretrial release, the offender could face up to five (5) years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If the offender has a similar previous conviction, this enhanced penalty also applies.
Stalking & Aggravated Stalking
Often times, a prosecutor may also charge cyberbullying as stalking if the offender uses electronic communication to make a credible threat or repeatedly contacts another and knows or should have known that their conduct would cause a reasonable individual to fear for their own safety, another’s safety, or property damage. Importantly, stalking becomes aggravated stalking if the offender:
- Brandished or used a deadly weapon with the intent of putting the victim or another person in fear of bodily injury or death
- Has been convicted of stalking within the last seven (7) years, or
- Was a registered sex offender at the time of the offense and stalked a minor
In Mississippi, stalking is considered to be a misdemeanor and can carry up to one (1) year in jail as well as a $1,000 fine. However, if the offense involved the violation of a restraining order or something similar, the fine increases to $1,500. On the other hand, aggravated stalking is a felony in Mississippi and as such, can carry up to six (6) years in prison and a fine of up to $4,000, depending on the circumstances.
Finding an Attorney
If you have been searching the Mississippi area for a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney, look no further than Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Over the years, we have helped numerous offenders pursue favorable outcomes. Although being accused of a crime like cyberbullying or cyberstalking is not a pleasant experience, there are many potential defense strategies that can be used to defend and reduce the charges against an offender. Call/contact us today for your free consultation to learn more.
Please also see us on mississippi-lawyers.com and view our reviews on avvo.com, superlawyers.com, and martindale.com. Our email address is mississippi-lawyers.com and our office phone number is (601) 948 – 4444 option 1.