Posting Harmful Data on the Internet – PC 653.2

California Penal Code 653.2 makes it a crime to send electronic communications (like IM’s, emails or text messages) with the intent of placing the recipient/victim in reasonable fear for his or her safety or that of his or her immediate family. This section is known has “indirect harassment’ or indirect cyber-stalking or harassment. With indirect electronic harassment, the defendant only needs to post information on the internet which encourages other people to harass or stalk the victim.

The prosecutor needs to prove:

      • Defendant used an electronic communication device to electronically distribute, publish, email, hyperlink or make available for downloading personal identifying information or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person
      • Defendant did so without that person’s consent
      • Defendant did so with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his/her safety or the safety of his/her immediate family
      • Defendant did so for the purpose of imminently causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment, and
      • The personal identifying information or message you shared would be likely to incite or produce that unwanted physical contact, injury or harassment

“Harassment” means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting or seriously terrorizing that person, and that serves no legitimate purpose, for cyber law purposes.

Defenses:

      • Didn’t not place the alleged “victim” in reasonable fear for his/her safety or that of his/her immediate family; and
      • Did not cause a third party to injure, harass or make unwanted physical contact with the “victim.”

It is all too easy for a casual or humorous comment on the internet to be misunderstood. But unless you had the required criminal intent, you are not guilty of indirect internet harassment—even if something you posted or wrote led another person to harass someone else.

Penalties:

      • County Jail for up to 1 year
      • Fine of up to $1,000
      • Possible loss of government assistance programs
      • Possible immigration consequences
      • Possible stay away orders or classes ordered by judge

653.2.  

(a) Every person who, with intent to place another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of the other person’s immediate family, by means of an electronic communication device, and without consent of the other person, and for the purpose of imminently causing that other person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment, by a third party, electronically distributes, publishes, e-mails, hyperlinks, or makes available for downloading, personal identifying information, including, but not limited to, a digital image of another person, or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person, which would be likely to incite or produce that unlawful action, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in a county jail, by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(b) For purposes of this section, “electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cell phones, computers, Internet Web pages or sites, Internet phones, hybrid cellular/Internet/wireless devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. “Electronic communication” has the same meaning as the term is defined in Section 2510(12) of Title 18 of the United States Code.

(c) For purposes of this section, the following terms apply:

      1. “Harassment” means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing the person and that serves no legitimate purpose.
      2. “Of a harassing nature” means of a nature that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing of the person and that serves no legitimate purpose.

(Amended by Stats. 2009, Ch. 140, Sec. 144. (AB 1164) Effective January 1, 2010.)

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