The internet has popularized certain crimes that didn’t even exist 30 years ago. One of these crimes is cyberstalking, which is a form of stalking that takes place using modern communications technology.
Although Wyoming has no formal cyberstalking laws, the state will charge people suspected of cyberstalking behavior under Wyoming stalking laws.
Is Cyberstalking a Crime in Wyoming?
Yes, cyberstalking is a crime in Wyoming, even without any specific cyberstalking laws. Stalking is criminalized by Wyoming Statutes Title 6. Crimes and Offenses § 6-2-506., and Wyoming treats cyberstalking as a form of stalking.
Normally, cyberstalking is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $750 or a year in jail (or both) and probation for up to three years.
Is cyberstalking a felony in Wyoming? Sometimes. It can be prosecuted as a felony if:
- It represents a second or further offense within five years of the most recent offense;
- The stalking conduct causes the victim serious bodily harm;
- The stalking conduct violated the terms of parole, probation, or bail; or
- The stalking conduct was a violation of a restraining order or order of protection.
If you are convicted of felony stalking in Wyoming, the court can sentence you to up to 10 years in prison.
Examples of Cyberstalking
Many different types of behavior can constitute cyberstalking. Wyoming has no specific texting harassment laws or cell phone stalking laws.
Nevertheless, Wyoming law does prohibit stalking, which it defines, in pertinent part, as “[c]ommunicating. . .or causing a communication with another person by. . .electronic. . .or written means in a manner that harasses [someone].”
TEXTING AND CELL PHONE HARASSMENT
The law defines harassment to include threats, lewd or obscene images, and vandalism. All of these things can be accomplished using a cell phone. And in case you were wondering, sending a malware link could constitute vandalism.
A single act, however, is not enough to constitute stalking under Wyoming law. You must engage in a course of conduct that indicates a consistent purpose.
WHAT IS CYBERSTALKING ON FACEBOOK?
Cyberstalking on social media sites such as Facebook could lead to social media harassment charges under Wyoming’s stalking statute. Examples of social media cyberstalking could include activities such as:
- Posting rude, offensive, or lewd comments on someone’s Facebook or Instagram account;
- Tagging someone in photos excessively, especially if the posts are unrelated to you;
- Commenting on or “liking” everything someone posts online;
- Creating fake accounts to bombard someone with messages, posts, etc. on social media, or to continue attempting to “friend” someone despite repeated rebuffs;
- Hacking into someone’s social media accounts to violate their privacy;
- Creating a fake Facebook profile to impersonate someone on Facebook for the purpose of embarrassing them, damaging their reputation, or “framing” them for a crime;
- Posting confidential information about someone online; or
- Posting real or fake photos of someone on your or their social media accounts.
The foregoing represent possible offenses, not all of which have been prosecuted under Wyoming’s stalking law.
FURTHER EXAMPLES OF POSSIBLE CYBERSTALKING
Many different types of actions might constitute cyberstalking under Wyoming law, including the following:
- Texting, emailing. or calling someone with threatening or offensive content, even after they ask you to stop;
- Using communications technology to blackmail or attempt to blackmail someone;
- Sending unwanted online gifts to someone;
- Attempting to extort money, sex, or explicit photos from someone;
- Posting “revenge porn”;
- Sending someone sexually explicit photos of yourself;
- Installing tracking devices or keyboard tracking software to invade someone’s privacy and track their online activity; or
- Hacking into someone’s laptop or smartphone camera and secretly recording them.
The foregoing list is certainly not exhaustive. And there are likely forms of cyberstalking that no one has even invented yet, so it is likely to grow even more in the future.
Defenses Against Cyberstalking Charges
A number of defenses might be applicable to your case, depending on the specific facts. Some common defenses against cyberstalking charges include the following.
Someone hacked into your online accounts or otherwise impersonated you through electronic means. This is particularly easy to do with a cell phone.
One form of software, for example, is downloadable, costs less than $50, and allows you to send text messages in the name of anyone whose phone number you know.
Your conduct, although perhaps objectionable, was not habitual or pervasive enough to constitute stalking.
One incident of bad conduct would certainly not qualify as stalking, and it remains unclear exactly how pervasive an activity must be in order to constitute cyberstalking.
The alleged “cyberstalking” conduct would not cause a “reasonable person” to:
- Fear for their safety;
- Fear for the safety of others;
- Fear the destruction of their property; or
- Suffer emotional distress.
Sending numerous online gifts, for example, has been identified as a form of stalking in some jurisdictions. Your lawyer might argue, however, that the gifts would not have offended a reasonable person, no matter how much they might have offended the actual recipient.
You are already being prosecuted for the same conduct under another law (terroristic threatening, for example). Prosecuting you for two state law crimes based upon the same conduct might constitute unconstitutional “double jeopardy.”
By contrast, it is often possible to prosecute a state charge and a federal charge for the same conduct without violating the double jeopardy prohibition.
NOT A FELONY
Wyoming can prosecute stalking as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on whether certain aggravating factors are present.
Even if your lawyer cannot win you an acquittal, they might be able to convince the prosecutor to reduce your charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Suppose, for example, that you are charged with a felony because your stalking conviction is considered a second offense based on a previous conviction in another state.
Your lawyer might argue that your charge should not be considered a second offense because your out-of-state conviction was not the equivalent of your present charge.
Fight Back, Starting Today
When Wyoming charges you with a crime, it’s you versus the full weight of the Wyoming criminal justice system. The system is competitive, brutal, and unforgiving. You are going to need assistance to navigate it successfully.
The criminal defense lawyers at Cowboy Country Criminal Defense will fight strategically and aggressively to clear your name. Call us at 307-243-4978 or contact us online so that we can explore your options together.