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Cyberstalking, revenge porn, and sextortion are online forms of harassment. All of these offenses can be prosecuted under state and federal laws. These crimes were already illegal under current laws but many statutes were amended to specifically include online behaviors. Nevada added cyberstalking to its general stalking law and passed a specific revenge porn law.

Since many of these charges violate federal law, it is important that you secure experienced legal defense if you face these crimes. Here is an explanation of the differences between cyberstalking, revenge porn, and sextortion, possible penalties, and defenses.

Online Harassment Crimes

The differences between cyberstalking, revenge porn, and sextortion are fairly subtle. Because this is a new class of crimes, it is not always clear how they are distinguished. However, as the field of crimes based online continues to grow, we see better definitions.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is a variant of stalking that is generally accepted as patterns of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment or contact that leads a victim to feel fearful. Repetitive threatening communication, threats or damaging property fall under stalking.

Cyberstalking, expectedly, takes an online approach. It may involve spreading rumors about a victim through the Internet or social media or harassing the victim with electronic means. Offenders also use Internet search engines to find personal facts about a victim and use those to harass them further. A common development is when offenders use online information to also harass coworkers, friends, and family members.

Revenge Porn

Revenge porn involves taking sexually explicit photographs that were obtained consensually and exposing them in a public manner online. It usually occurs in the context of a romantic relationship where a victim gives the offenders photos with the expectation that they remain private. Offenders release photos to a website designed for that purpose, often as revenge for a relationship ending. Site operators then demand payment from victims for their removal.

“Sextortion”

Sextortion is similar to revenge porn in that it often involves soliciting sexually explicit photographs of a victim. However, rather than release the photographs online, the offender makes that threat and demands payment or additional photos to keep the images private. This offense is most commonly committed against minors.

Penalties

Penalties for these crimes can be serious–especially if the offenses were committed against a minor. For example, if you commit a sextortion offense against a minor, you can face a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. The same is true if a minor is a victim of revenge porn. Child pornography carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years. Cyberstalking offenses are often linked to child pornography since they often involve camera surveillance, which also puts the perpetrator in the possibility of a long prison sentence.

Even if the victim is an adult, the penalties are not light. The Nevada law against revenge porn punishes offenders with a fine and a prison sentence up to five years. Stalking, both the regular and cyber types, are punishable with a prison term from two to 15 years and fines up to $10,000. Cyberstalking is classified as a Category C felony so it will remain on your record for years which limits your ability to secure some types of jobs or find housing.

Sextortion does not have specific laws against it. Since it is normally committed against minors and involves computer hacking, offenders either face child pornography or hacking penalties. Computer hacking is a felony that is punishable with a prison sentence of up to 10 years and fines up to $250,000.

Possible Defenses

Since offenders are normally facing felony charges in these cases, there is no doubt that a successful prosecution for cyberstalking, revenge porn or sextortion will disrupt your life. That is why it is important to hire a defense attorney as soon as charges are brought against you.

An appropriate defense depends on the facts. Generally, an experienced defense attorney may argue:

  • Lack of evidence: If a victim did not take screenshots or positively link the harassing behavior to you, it may be impossible to make charges stick. Likewise, sometimes it is not possible to track hacking or access to private photos to you specifically, which leaves room for reasonable doubt.
  • Intent: Cyberstalking especially must arise from an intention to cause fear. If you were merely trying to get a hold of someone or find information, you may not have this needed intent element.
  • Consent: You may be able to show that securing explicit photos and releasing them online was all consenual.

State and federal laws are not friendly to these online harassment charges. If you are facing them, contact Gabriel L. Grasso today to schedule an appointment.

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