The internet has brought the world all of its shared information directly to every user on a silver platter - or silver phone - whichever you prefer. What people choose to do with that information varies greatly, but no matter what anyone chooses, it comes with a tremendous amount of power. People assume, incorrectly, that life online is completely anonymous and there is no need for a filter. Sending threats or making malicious comments to strangers online, even jokingly, can potentially harm your personal and professional life and leave you with criminal charges.
Types of Internet Crime
Digital spaces are vaster than we can imagine, leaving a lot of room for a variety of criminal activities. Maintaining any type of online presence or interacting with computers leaves individuals at the mercy of those more technologically savvy, but certain crimes can be inadvertently committed even as a novice. Here are some examples of Internet Crimes:
Hacking & Identity Theft: These are often misunderstood crimes. Hacking is associated with highly sophisticated computer programming but involves any unauthorized access to a computer system or online account with the intent to do harm. A common example of hacking is taking someone's password to access their phone and using privileged information to your advantage. Hacking can be either a civil or criminal infraction depending on the severity of the breach.
Cyberbullying, Cyberstalking & Harassment: Cyberbullying has become an increasingly popular topic as more and more children use the internet as their primary source of contact with the world. Just like it sounds, it is bullying someone through the internet, and can come with varying consequences depending on the severity of the resulting actions. For example, there's a case where a teen was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for “convincing” her boyfriend to kill himself. Criminal Cyberstalking in Florida can be a misdemeanor or even a felony subjecting the accused to five years in prison. Though we all should be able to enjoy our First Amendment freedom of speech, the laws regarding making threats online or electronically have become quite severe in the wake of school shooting threats. “Making Threats” used to be a simple misdemeanor, but now Making Threats Electronically to kill someone is a second degree felony punishable by 15 years in prison.
Can I Be Charged With A Cyber Crime?
Occasionally leaving offensive comments on the internet is unlikely to garner any police attention, however the specifics of what you say and the context can change the outcome. First Amendment rights protect our freedom of speech, however, frequently targeting specific individuals with threatening or unwanted messages can cause the victim to report the activity to law enforcement. Online activity leaves a trail of admissible evidence that many people assume can't be traced back to them. Malcolm Anthony represented a child who jokingly threatened to kill a classmate. Though the threat was a minor juvenile prank, it led to great difficulty in defense of the juvenile. Fortunately, after much wrangling and trial, Mr. Anthony was able to preserve the child's liberty and future.
All this being said, “cyber crime” is not a crime in and of itself, but a category of online activities that can be linked to a criminal charge in the real world.
Whether or not your online activity is considered a crime depends upon many factors, including who is the alleged victim of the criminal activity. For example, if you are an adult that consistently leaves offensive or threatening messages on someone's social media page can potentially constitute criminal harassment (misdemeanor) or stalking charges (felony). If you have questions about your online activity and whether it can impact your criminal record, it's best to consult with experienced legal counsel. If you're currently facing charges due to allegations caused by your online footprint, contact the office of Malcolm Anthony, P.A. at 904-285-4529 (4LAW) to set up a consultation today.
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