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No one can argue that technology has changed tremendously over the past several decades; indeed, most of today’s popular electronic devices had not even been created just a few years ago. Although technological advances have been valuable to society and has allowed people to stay connected in ways never before imaged, it does not come without its downsides. Just as technology and its advances can be used for good, it can also be used to do real harm. Like it or not, technology has in fact allowed easier access to strangers than ever before in our history. Monroe Union County is no exception to this trend.

Realizing the numerous uses for technology – the good, the bad, and the ugly – legislators across the nation have taken action to criminalize individuals who use technology to cause harm to others. In North Carolina, these types of laws can be classified under one topic referred to as “cyberstalking” laws. Keep in mind that cyberstalking laws are taken with the utmost concern. In short, just because the criminal offense occurred over the internet does not make it any less serious. In fact, North Carolina law views cyberstalking as a Class 2 misdemeanor offense with potential punishment of up to 60 days in jail if convicted of the crime.

Cyberstalking Statute

The state’s cyberstalking statute can be found in North Carolina Gen. Stat. § 14-196.3. This law focuses on any activity that involves electronic communication or mail. The cyberstalking statute continues to note that it is against the law to communicate electronically or email any threat to harm a person, a person’s property, or any member of a person’s family. It is likewise against the law to use electronic devices as a way to extort another for money or services. North Carolina law also holds individuals accountable when another uses his or her electronic device to engage in cyberstalking by punishing both the owner of the device and the actual perpetrator. It is also against the law for someone to lie about whether something happened to a person or a family member if the purpose of the lie is meant to cause harm. Finally, North Carolina law states that individuals cannot use electronic communication or email for the repeated harassment, abuse, scaring or embarrassment of others.

Before North Carolina enacted its cyberstalking law, there were other laws put in place that similarly focused on electronic harassment. Prior to electronic devices, telephones were the tool of choice for stalking and harassment. North Carolina made telephone harassment a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. This anti-harassment law penalizes perpetrators who use a telephone to threat, annoy, harass, or abuse another. North Carolina law also prohibits the use of a phone in a manner that is lewd, profane, or vulgar.

Prosecutorial Discretion

Cyberstalking is an area of the law in which prosecutors have broad discretion to pursue the case against an accused. Indeed, critics of North Carolina’s cyberstalking law claim an aggressive prosecutor can designate several types of electronic contact as cyberstalking due to the vague wording in the statutes. For this reason, it is crucial that you contact and hire an experienced Monroe Union County criminal defense attorney if you or someone you know is facing cyberstalking charges in North Carolina.

Those wrongly accused of cyberstalking, however, should know that proving these charges can be difficult. This is because prosecutors often have a hard time identifying and proving who actually made the harassing text messages, phone calls, and emails. This is because online anonymity can serve as a cloak for perpetrators, hiding from prosecutors who is actually behind the cyberstalking. Although it seems that a perpetrator’s name – whether appearing in an email or on caller ID – is sufficient proof, the truth is that there are ways to evade detection from victims and law enforcement. Sometimes true perpetrators can even cause harm to innocent people beyond the targeted victim by framing another for a crime that he or she did not commit. This makes it harder for convictions because concrete evidence is required by courts. Specifically, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged of cyberstalking is the actual person who engaged in the criminal activity.

Criminal Defense Help

The Monroe Union County criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help you or your loved ones navigate North Carolina’s criminal justice system. If you or someone you care about has been charged with cyberstalking, contact our law firm. Our years of experience in North Carolina’s local court system fighting all types of criminal charges including cyberstalking can ensure you receive the best defense possible. Whether you have been accused of cyberstalking or any other criminal charge, contact us today and see how we can help.