Arizona Cyberharassment & Cyberstalking Laws

It's scary to join an open source project by opensourceway from Flickr

It’s scary to join an open source project by opensourceway from Flickr

When I was planning out my year, I learned that January is National Stalking Awareness month. This inspired me to look up the laws on cyberstalking and cyberharassment in Arizona.

When I think about stalking, I think about the guy who follows you from the shadows and hides in the bushes and watches you with binoculars. They always know where you are and show up wherever you go “by coincidence.” When we first started acknowledging stalking as a crime, the perpetrator had to be within physical proximity to you. In person stalking is still an issue and now we have to worry about cyberstalking too – people tracking you wherever you go via the internet and using your posts against you to know where you’re going and to harass you in person and online. Some of these perpetrators do things like attach a GPS to your car so they can track your movements. Creepy!

Stalking and harassment are different, but there’s often overlap between the two. I think when you’re being stalked, you’re also being harassed once you know you have a stalker but the reverse isn’t always true. You can be harassed without being stalked. These crimes are state law crimes, so the definitions may be different depending on where you live. I recommend you check your state’s laws to make sure that they’ve been updated to include cyberstalking and cyberharassment.

Here are the laws in Arizona:

  • Cyberstalking: Intentionally or knowingly engaging in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or their immediate family’s safety, including the fear of death. (Class 5 Felony); Penalty: 9 months in jail and up to a $150,000 fine
  • Cyberharassment: Communicating with a person with the intent to harass them or with the knowledge that the person was being harassed. (Class 1 Misdemeanor); Penalty: Up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine

There’s also a separate law for harassing someone via electronic communications. The definition and penalty is the same as cyberharassment except that it specifies that it applies to harassing, intimidating, terrifying, and/or threatening someone. It seems redundant.

And that’s just the criminal law side. If you cyberstalk or cyberharass someone, you may also be sued for damages in civil court.

On top of that, you may get in trouble with the company who provided you the means to stalk or harass the person. If you do it from your work computer, you might be fired. If you do it via your school’s network, you could be suspended or expelled. If you do it from one of your social media accounts, you can be kicked off the site.

So what are the take-home lessons?

  • If you’re mad at someone or want to give them a hard time, think twice before you begin your course of action. It may not take much to cross the line into cyberharassment. The consequences might be way worse than you think.
  • If you’re being cyberharassed or cyberstalked, report it – to law enforcement, to the site or company that’s facilitating it, and possibly call a lawyer. Cyberharassment sucks and you don’t have to put up with it.

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Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

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Comments

  1. “They always know where you are and show up wherever you go “by coincidence.””

    So…every social media meet up, ever. Looks like I have some paperwork to file! 😉

    • You’re internet-famous so I’m sure people want to go to meetups with you. When they start showing up in gym locker room and you suspect they’re taking pictures of you with their phone when they’re pretending to text, you might want to be concerned.

  2. lchandler says:

    are there any lawyers in the phoenix metro area who handle or even specialize in cyberstalking/harassment cases? even if it’s not all they do, i’d like to speak to an attorney who can give me good advise on this topic, i’m in a bit of a situation at the moment that may require legal action.

  3. Melanie says:

    Help! I have an injunction against harassment yet this person is resorting cyberstalking and cyber harassing. Reported to police and they will not intervene!

    • Ruth Carter says:

      That sounds like a situation where you may want to consult a lawyer, the court that issued the injunction, your city’s government officials, and/or the head of the police department for assistance.

  4. How far back can someone go when to reporting cyberstalking? I found out 18 months ago my husband at the time created a fake person to communicate with me via email to talk me into staying with him. This went on for 5 years. I was terrorized over this situation. I still am devestated over the length he went to to keep me in a bad mentally abusive situation. There was also physical stalking at the end. I now have a protective order. With all that being said I just discovered he has been researching my name online. How I know, the DMV contacted me and notified me I needed to fill our the correct format if I wanted to change my address. I never put in for an address change. The computer print out they sent me was definitely sent by my ex. It does not have his name on it of course because it was sent to them anonymously. When he was served the protective order I told the police he had broken into my computer and erased all my emails and contacts. I told them he was stalking me. They did nothing. I am so done with this guy and yet there seems nothing can be done because he his all his email correspondence under fake names and secret accounts. Just want feedback as to what else a victim can do. Thanks.

  5. Lam Tran says:

    My name is Lam Tran. I have been a subject of aerial harassment for over a year, one of those many air crafts has a number N329PA, N9634T, N440PA, N435PA plus several other unmarked large jets. I have many photos and videos of various air crafts, which shadowed me whenever I go. Please contact me at the earliest to help me to find out who are these peeping toms and who hired them.
    Please be advised that my email, my cell phone my computers were and still are hacked.

  6. Amanda Dobbie says:

    I have someone who has somehow been accessing my phone and texts. These were from when I was single, months ago. I don’t know who it is but they have somehow found out who my boyfriend is and an email address that he rarely uses and send him multiple messages with old texts. It started a few months ago and then stopped. The day before Valentine’s it started again. Even though the texts to other people were from before we were together, it’s ruining our relationship. Is there anything j can do?

    • Ruth Carter says:

      If I were in this situation, I’d probably start by talking to my phone service to see if they can determine what’s going on and if there’s anything they can do to prevent it from continuing.

  7. I’ve been a victim of cyber harassment for a very long time. It’s so bad that I realize it has turned into a hate crime. These people do not even know me. I am threatened to be killed on a daily basis. And I do feel as s if my life is in danger.

    • Ruth Carter says:

      This sounds like you have criminal concerns, which need to be taken to your local law enforcement agency.

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