Men and women – especially parents – often call our criminal defense law firm in Colorado Springs to ask about online harassment charges which include cyberstalking and cyberbullying. Learn what you need to know.
Online Harassment Charges
It’s common for men and women living in the Colorado Springs area to contact me and ask about Colorado online harassment charges, including cyberstalking and cyberbullying.
Harassing acts and statements that would constitute criminal offenses in Colorado if made “in real life” is just as illegal if made in cyberspace.
Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying Charges Can Be Severe
Cyberstalking and cyberbullying are considered criminal harassment crimes. Online harassment charges come with serious consequences in Colorado, as our state along with other states tries to address the explosive and dangerous growth of such conduct.
According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 73% of adult internet users have seen someone be harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it. Those who witnessed harassment said they had seen at least one of the following occur to others online:
- 60% of internet users said they had witnessed someone being called offensive names
- 53% had seen efforts to purposefully embarrass someone
- 25% had seen someone being physically threatened
- 24% witnessed someone being harassed for a sustained period
- 19% said they witnessed someone being sexually harassed
- 18% said they had seen someone be stalked
Colorado Online Harassment Law
Cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and other forms of online harassment charges are addressed in a specific provision of Colorado’s general harassment law known as “Kiana Arellano’s Law,” named for a 14-year old Colorado high school sophomore and cheerleader who tried to kill herself in 2013 after being cyberbullied by classmates.
That law (C.R.S.18-9-111(1)(e)) provides that a person commits harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:
Directly or indirectly initiates communication with a person or directs language toward another person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telephone network, data network, text message, instant message, computer, computer network, computer system, or another interactive electronic medium in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, computer system, or another interactive electronic medium that is obscene.
Obscene, for purpose of online harassment, means a patently offensive description of ultimate sexual acts or solicitation to commit ultimate sexual acts, whether or not said ultimate sexual acts are normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or excretory functions.
Colorado Online Harassment Charges are Usually Misdemeanors
Online harassment charges including cyberstalking and cyberbullying under “Kiana Arellano’s Law” are usually charged as a class 3 misdemeanor that can result in up to 6 months in jail, and/or a fine of $50-$750 upon conviction. However, online harassment can be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor if the harassment is committed with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin. In such a case, a conviction can result in 6 – 18 months in jail and/or a fine of $500-$5,000.
Online harassment can occur to anyone and is surprisingly common in certain circumstances such as between spouses. Stalking in Colorado among divorcees is a dangerous and serious offense.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Given the consequences of a conviction resulting from misdemeanor charges, it is important for anyone facing online harassment charges to contact an experienced Colorado Springs harassment defense attorney as soon as you can. There are numerous defenses that may be available to you, and your lawyer can help assert those defenses, protect your rights, and guide you through this difficult time.