Following a breakup with your long-term girlfriend, you emailed her to see how she was doing. You initially sent a couple of messages, but did not receive a response from her. Frustrated by her lack of response, you decided to send her several threatening emails every day for a month. Now, you are being accused of cyberstalking under California Penal Code section 646.9.
If you are confronted with accusations of cyberstalking, it is imperative to understand exactly what the elements of the crime are.
What is cyberstalking?
Although there is no universally accepted definition of cyberstalking, the term refers to the use of the internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group of individuals, or an organization.
Cyberstalking can be understood within the context of California Penal Code section 646.9, which provides the elements of a stalking charge:
- • You willfully, maliciously, and “repeatedly followed” someone; OR
- • You willfully and maliciously “harassed” someone; AND
- • You made a “credible threat” with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family and had the ability to carry out the threat.
You “repeatedly followed” someone if you engaged in two or more acts over a short period of time evidencing a continuous purpose. For example, if you sent your ex-girlfriend three emails in one day threatening to harm her if she did not respond, then you have likely “repeatedly followed” her in the context of cyberstalking.
You “harassed” an individual if you engaged in any willful conduct intended solely to annoy, alarm, torment, or terrorize that person. For instance, if you sent your ex-girlfriend three emails in one day threatening to “watch over her at night”, you have likely harassed her since this intentional behavior serves no purpose other than to torment her.
A “credible threat” requires two parts. First, the threat must place the targeted person in reasonable fear of his or her safety or the safety of his or her family. If you live in Europe, but threaten to visit your ex-girlfriend in Orange County every night, then her fear might not be considered reasonable.
Second, the person making the threat must have the apparent ability to carry out the threat. If you live in Europe, but threaten to visit your ex-girlfriend in Orange County “in a couple of minutes”, you do not have the apparent ability to carry out this threat.
Why you should retain the Law Offices of Wallin & Klarich
The attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have successfully defended clients accused of stalking for over 30 years. When you are accused of such a serious crime, there is too much at stake to retain any law firm other than Wallin & Klarich. Our attorneys will aggressively defend your rights and keep you informed of any developments in your case. We have the skill and experience needed to help you win your case.
Our offices are located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, Victorville, Torrance, and Sherman Oaks. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 to discuss your case. We will get through this together.