California Cyber Stalking and Harassment Laws

In California, the stalking laws are included under Section 646.9 of the Penal Code, which states that any person who willfully and maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or that of an immediate family member is guilty of stalking. Stalking cases may include additional related charges such as: (1) Trespassing; (2) Vandalism; (3) Burglary; (4) Criminal Threats; and (5) Obscene, Threatening, or Annoying Phone Calls.

Please keep in mind that willfulness is a standard related to the culprit’s state of mind. For example, when the person is acting purposefully, then he/she has the “conscious object” of engaging in conduct and believes or hopes that the attendant circumstances exist. If the person is acting knowingly, then he/she is practically certain that his conduct will lead to the result. If the person is acting recklessly, then he/she is aware that the attendant circumstances exist, but nevertheless engages in the conduct that a “law-abiding person” would have refrained from. If the person acts negligently, then he/she is unaware of the attendant circumstances and the consequences of his conduct, but a “reasonable person” would have been aware. Finally, if the person acts with strict liability, then mental state is irrelevant and he/she is strictly liable.

In the last few years and with the emerging of the world wide web, a new kind of stalking has developed which is also called “cyber stalking.” This type of misconduct occurs when the violator utilizes the Internet, electronic mail (e-mail) or other communication devices to harass and stalk others. For example, it can occur by sending e-mails to the victim, impersonating another person in online chat rooms and e-mail messages, and disseminating lies in cyberspace. It is also important to note that the Internet is a cheap and efficient method for “cyber stalkers” to anonymously cause harm to their victims.

If you have any questions, contact me, Salar Atrizadeh, Esq. to discuss your options.