Stalking refers to following someone in a way that is harassing or threatening, and it’s against the law in Colorado. You can be charged with a felony in relation to stalking activity, and if you’re convicted, the penalties can be as high as four years in prison for the first conviction and eight years in prison for subsequent convictions.
Yet, the line between actual stalking and simply engaging with or trying to engage with someone can be a bit gray and subjective. When you’re accused of stalking, it can be important to have a criminal defense attorney on your side who can fight for your rights and help you defend yourself against potentially subjective allegations.
The lines might get even blurrier when you’re talking about the digital landscape. Yes, stalking can occur online, too, and it’s considered a crime there as well. In fact, the Colorado Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management specifically notes that cyber bullying and predatory activity are cybercrimes as much as online fraud is.
Find out more about what cyber-stalking is below and how a criminal defense attorney can help if you’re being accused of this crime.
What Is Cyber-Stalking?
Cyber-stalking is any activity that occurs online that meets the legal definition of stalking. In Colorado, several conditions must be met for activity to be considered stalking.
First, someone has to make a credible threat. This can include actions, verbal words, or written words that cause a person to reasonably fear for their safety or the security of their home, possessions, or loved ones. Second, the person who made the threat must be noted to have repeatedly contacted or engaged with the victim or their family or friends.
Stalking might also occur without a specific credible threat if a person follows or otherwise harrasses someone else in a way that constitutes a reasonable threat and the victim can demonstrate emotional distress.
Cyber-stalking might occur if someone repeatedly issues threats via digital channels or appears to be following a person around online and harassing them after issuing a threat in person, via mail, or over the phone.
What Are Examples of Activities Considered Cyber-Stalking in Colorado?
Before listing some potential examples of cyber-stalking, consider some examples of activity that would likely not be considered cyber-stalking:
- Replying to one post on social media with a seemingly threatening message but not following through or engaging with the person again would not be stalking. It does not have the required repetitive element under Colorado law.
- Making a threat via any digital channel that is not credible or doesn’t invoke fear in a reasonable person isn’t stalking. For example, if someone says “If you don’t stop posting these images, I’ll send a dragon to eat you,” this is hyperbole and not a credible threat, because no reasonable person would fear an imaginary dragon.
- The alleged victim was not emotionally distressed or worried. For example, someone might show up constantly on a person’s social media and in their email. Perhaps this person is in love or a bit obsessed, and they are constantly contacting or even lightly harassing the other person. But the other person deems the activity harmless and is not emotionally distressed; this may not be considered cyber-stalking.
Some examples of what might be considered cyber-stalking in Colorado include:
- Threatening someone repeatedly via email, social media, or private chat.
- Using technology, such as GPS trackers, to know where a person is at all times or to follow them.
- Repeatedly harassing someone in a public online forum by talking about them, spreading rumors about them, or sharing confidential information about them.
- Using digital channels to engage in sinister behavior toward someone else, such as sending them photographs that demonstrate you’re following them.
What Are the Penalties for Cyber-Stalking Convictions in Colorado?
The penalties for cyber-stalking in the state are the same as they are for other instances of stalking. A first offense can come with one to four years of prison time plus two years of probation. Fines can be up to $100,000. A second offense can come with two to eight years of prison and three years of probation. Fines can be up to $500,000. In both cases, probation is mandatory for all convictions.
Since cyber-stalking is a felony, the consequences of conviction last long after time is served and fees are paid. Felony convictions can make it difficult to get a job or find housing, for example, and you may give up rights, such as the right to own a firearm.
Protect Your Rights and Future With Help From a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Facing felony charges is a huge deal, and it can be hard to know what to do first if someone accuses you of cyber-stalking. Whether you’re dealing with accusations in the context of a potential domestic violence situation or you’ve been hit with cyber-stalking charges seemingly out of the blue, a good first step is to contact a criminal defense attorney.
A lawyer can step in to help protect your rights, ensure you know what your options are and how each choice might play out in court, and help you strategize the best defense possible. If you’re facing cyber-stalking or other criminal charges, contact The Lux Law Firm today to find out how we can help.