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Online Impersonation

The internet is known for giving users the ability to make themselves anonymous. In some cases, it can be too tempting for internet users to pretend to be someone they are not, given how easy it is to set up social media accounts in any name. Imitating as another person online, even if it’s for harmless fun, is a crime in the state of Texas with very serious penalties.

Online impersonation was made into a criminal offense in 2009 after a bill was passed that prohibited harassing another person by impersonating them online. Texas legislature expanded the definition of the crime even further to include impersonation on social networking sites as well as electronic messaging programs. The offense of online impersonation carries substantial penalties and could land you in jail for up to 12 months. For these reasons, we highly encourage you to gain legal counsel if you’ve been accused of online impersonation.

Texas Online Impersonation Attorney in Travis County

It’s likely you never intended to commit a crime when you impersonated another online and just wanted to have some harmless fun. Unfortunately, Texas law is not kind to those who falsely identify themselves online. You could be charged with a misdemeanor and face the severe penalties associated with the crime. Don’t wait another moment to protect your rights and future and consult The Law Office of Kevin Bennett for an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Kevin Bennett can review the circumstances of your case and present you all your legal options. He can then get started building a formidable and effective defense to protect you from the statutory penalties. Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett at (512) 476-4626 to set up your first consultation free. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett accepts clients throughout the greater Austin area including West Lake Hills, Lakeway, Rollingwood, Pflugerville, and Lago Vista.

Overview of Online Impersonation Laws in TX

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Is it Illegal to Pretend to be Someone Else Online?

Over time, Texas legislature has adapted laws to keep up with new and upcoming computer crimes. This was evident in 2011 when Texas Legislature passed a law in response to a growing number of incidents in which people used social media to pretend to be someone else in order to harass, stalk or defraud their victim. For instance, if a person created a fake social media account in their ex-partner’s name to tarnish their reputation, then they could potentially be charged with the crime of online impersonation.

The crime of online impersonation is defined under the Texas Penal Code Section 33.07. The statute states a person is guilty of online impersonation if they do any of the following actions with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten another person.

  • Use the name or persona of another person to:
    • Create a web page on a commercial social networking site or other Internet site;
    • Post or send one or more messages on or through a commercial social networking site or other Internet site, other than on or through an electronic mail program or message board program.

A person is also guilty of the crime if they send an electronic mail, instant message, text message, or similar communication that references a name, phone number, domain address or identifying information of another person:

  • Without their consent; or
  • With the intent to cause a recipient of the communication to reasonably believe that the other person authorized or transmitted the communication; AND
  • The intent of the offender was to harm or defraud the alleged victim

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Online Impersonation Examples in Texas

To completely understand online impersonation laws, it’s important to realize all situations in which it applies. There are various ways a person can commit online impersonation, but it must always include an action using Internet access or electronic communication to assume the identity of another person. For the act to be considered criminal, there must be some sort of intent to harm the victim from the offender. The harm doesn’t have to be physical and can include blows to a person character such as defamation or extreme embarrassment.

Some examples of online impersonation include:

  • A person posts an ad on Craigslist and offers to sell another person’s car while providing the victim’s address and contact information;
  • A person creates a fake website to impersonate another person’s business and posts sensitive contact and identifying information of the owner;
  • A person makes a fake Facebook account of their ex-partner and posts their identifying information without the victim’s permission; or
  • A person makes a fake Skype profile and messages other users pretending to be someone else

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What Are the Penalties for Catfishing in Texas?

Impersonating someone online, otherwise known as “catfishing,” doesn’t come without consequences. The penalties for online impersonation depend heavily on the circumstances of the case. Sending another person’s identifying information over electronic mail, instant message, phone number, etc. without their consent is classified as a class A misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a class A misdemeanor include the following:

  • Up to 12 months in jail; and
  • A fine of up to $4,000

Creating a web page on a social networking site or messaging as another person on a social networking or other type of website is a third-degree felony. The statutory penalties for a third-degree felony include:

  • Up to 10 years in prison; and
  • A fine of up to $10,000

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Additional Resources

What Do I Do If My Identity Is Stolen? | Attorney General of TX – Visit the official website for the Attorney General, Ken Paxton, of Texas to learn more about their resources for people who have had their identity stolen. Access the site to read their tips on what to do next, actions items to protect your identity in the future and assistance from organizations that can help.

Online Impersonation Laws in Texas – Visit the official website for the Texas Penal Code and read their Offenses Against Property chapter to learn more about online impersonation. Access the site to read the statutory language of the crime and other related offenses.

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Austin Attorney for Online Impersonation in Texas

It may be tempting to underestimate an online impersonation charge but know the penalties for the crime are very serious. What may be simply be a harmless joke could turn into a felony conviction on your record. Fight back against these allegations by retaining skilled counsel you can trust. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett has extensive experience with computer crimes and can use that knowledge to build a sturdy defense for your case.

Kevin Bennett is a reputable attorney with years of practice defending clients from Internet crimes. You can trust him to always give a thorough answer to your legal questions as well as work tirelessly to secure the best possible result for your case. Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett at (512) 476-4626 now to set up your first consultation free of charge. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett accepts clients throughout the greater Travis County area including Lago Vista, Pflugerville, Austin, Rollingwood and Sunset Valley.

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