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When social media can lead to cyberstalking charges

Modern technology and social media networks make it very easy to stay in contact with more people than ever. There are times, however, when staying in contact with a former romantic partner may result in criminal charges.

New York law generally prohibits "stalking" behavior, which is loosely defined as "unwanted pursuit of another person," according to New York's Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Stalking is typically not a one-time event, but rather a pattern of behavior toward a person that is deemed to be threatening or harassing.

Repeated unpleasant interactions with a former spouse may rise to the level of cyberstalking in some cases. The key question in a stalking case is whether the behavior at question caused or is reasonably likely to cause fear on the part of a victim.

Attempts to prevent stalking behavior can be at odds with freedom of speech principles. In 2014, the state's highest court struck down an aggravated harassment law which banned "annoying or alarming" behavior, The Post-Standard reports. The court said that banning "annoying" language was unconstitutionally vague.

The modification of the second-degree aggravated harassment law arose out of a case involving a Dead Sea Scrolls enthusiast who was convicted after purportedly harassing scholars online. The New York Daily News reports that Raphael Golb was convicted of 30 counts after assuming the identities of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars and mocking them online.

Unlike the Golb case, behavior that contains direct threats may rise to the level of a cyberstalking or harassment crimes. If you are accused of cyberstalking or any other computing crime, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will be able to assess the particular circumstances of your case and explain the defense options available to you. An attorney may also be able to reveal important contextual information that can more accurately explain behaviors which may appear to be alarming to law enforcement, and help you avoid criminal penalties.

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