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Cyberstalking is a crime in Texas. It is a subsection of broader stalking laws and is a stronger charge than general harassment. Like the parent crime of stalking, it is a felony in the state of Texas.

In the following article, we’ll go over the differences between harassment and stalking and the penalties for cyberstalking in Texas.

 Austin Cyberstalking Attorneys

If you have been arrested and charged with stalking, it is essential to your future that you contact an experienced Austin cyberstalking attorney as soon as possible. Kevin Bennett of The Law Office of Kevin Bennett serves individuals in Travis County, West Lake Hills, Sunset Valley, Lakeway, Austin, Pflugerville, Lago Vista, and the surrounding areas in Texas.

Bennett will work tirelessly to ensure that your case is thoroughly prepared. He prides himself on providing the best possible defense for each client, and he will focus his time and energy on building a case that will give you the best chance at receiving the most favorable outcome.

Contact Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to schedule a free consultation about your cyberstalking charges in Travis County.

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Stalking vs. Harassment

Though they are often used interchangeably, stalking and harassment are two very different crimes.

Harassment is defined under Texas Penal Code 42.07 as behavior which:

  • Initiates communication which is obscene
  • Threatens to inflict an injury on a person, someone close to that person or the person’s property
  • Falsely informing a person that another person has died or received a serious injury
  • Constantly makes contact with a person via telephone or another method to annoy, embarrass or torment that person
  • Publishes communications on the internet intended for a specific person that is intended to embarrass or torment that person

Generally, harassment is behavior which is intended to cause distress to another person, but generally not to fear for their life. Harassment is generally a class B or class A misdemeanor depending on the age of the victim.

Stalking is defined by Texas Penal Code 42.072 as behavior which causes a person to reasonably fear for bodily injury to themselves or a family member. Generally, stalking requires the perpetrator to have a close relationship such as close blood relations or being in a previous dating or otherwise intimate relationship.

There is some overlap in harassment and stalking – generally, whether a crime is pursued as a stalking crime is up to the district attorney’s office.

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The subset of behaviors located in the legal definition of stalking that involve the use of electronic communication is known as cyberstalking.

Some of the behaviors which qualify as cyberstalking under Texas law include:

  • Sending violent threats to a person who may be identified as the intended target  of the communication
  • Maintaining unwanted contact over a period of time which would make a reasonable person fear for their safety. This includes creating multiple accounts to bypass blocks or restrictions
  • Posting photos, messages and other content on the internet with the intent to strike fear in the other person.
  • Any of the above actions which would make the victim fear for his or her significant other, close family member, property or a person that lives in the same house

Cyberstalking is a felony in the third degree, unless the perpetrator has a prior stalking conviction. In this case the charge becomes a second-degree felony.

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Penalties for Cyberstalking in Texas

The following table is a penalty schedule for felony convictions that may be associated with stalking charges.

Stalking (no prior conviction) Third-Degree Felony
  • Imprisonment for 2 to 10 years
  • Up to a $10,000 fine
Stalking (at least one prior conviction) Second-Degree Felony
  • Imprisonment for 5 to 20 years
  • Up to a $10,000 fine

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Collateral Consequences of a Cyberstalking Conviction

Cyberstalking can have wide-ranging consequences beyond the above penalty schedule. These consequences can impact one’s life and livelihood, which is why it is imperative to retain a strong defense attorney.
The following are some examples of consequences that may arise as a result of a felony cyberstalking conviction:

  • Loss of Employment Opportunity: Many employers refuse to hire and work with convicted felons.
  • Loss of Housing Opportunities: Many landlords refuse to let convicted felons.
  • Loss of Right to Vote: In Texas, felons cannot vote until their sentence, parole and probation have been completed.
  • Loss of Right to Bear Arms: Felons cannot carry or possess a firearm in Texas.

On Sex Offender Registration

Unlike some states, which classify stalking as an inherently sexually-driven crime, Texas instead classifies stalking and harassment as “disorderly” crimes. Therefore, a stalking conviction does not necessarily mean that a conviction will result in placement on the sex offender registry.

However, if the threats or actions related to one’s conviction are sexual in nature, then there is a real possibility of being labeled a sex offender.

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Common Defenses for Cyberstalking Charges

The following are a few common defense strategies for cyberstalking charges that your defense attorney may employ.

  • 1st Amendment Rights: As with a harassment charge, your lawyer is likely to make the argument that your online communications fall under 1st Amendment protections.
  • Intent: A large part of a successful stalking charge is demonstrating intent to cause harm. Your attorney may employ the use of character witnesses and a different narrative for the online actions or communications to show that you did not intend to cause fear or harm.
  • Reasonability: Your attorney may seek to provide alternative interpretations of the online actions or communications to show that the prosecution’s claim of “reasonable fear” is not in fact reasonable.

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Hire a Cyberstalking Attorney in Austin, Texas

Kevin Bennett is a qualified stalking defense attorney who has years of experience representing clients who have been charged with violent crimes in and around Austin, Lago Vista, Rollingwood, Sunset Valley, West Lake Hills, Travis County, Lakeway, and Pflugerville.

Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to schedule a consultation about the charges against you. Your initial consultation is free, and it is the first step in fighting to protect your reputation and freedom.

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