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Robert Gilmore is an experienced Sampson County lawyer handling Criminal Defense, DWIs, Traffic, and Personal Injury.

Sampson County Criminal Law Blog

Sampson County attorney Robert Gilmore provides information and insight about North Carolina criminal law.

Cyberstalking in NC: It’s Not Just for Stalkers

Threaten to physically hurt someone on Facebook?  Keep sending messages to your old partner to annoy them when they won’t respond?  Did you say that someone had an affair over Facebook when it wasn’t true?  These acts could constitute cyberstalking, a class 2 misdemeanor in NC.

North Carolina General Statute 14-196.3 makes it a crime to do any of the following, among other things:

  • Use in electronic mail or electronic communication any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person's child, sibling, spouse, or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person.

  • Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.

  • Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another and to knowingly make any false statement concerning death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct, or criminal conduct of the person electronically mailed or of any member of the person's family or household with the intent to abuse, annoy, threaten, terrify, harass, or embarrass.

 

The first section covers Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of social media imaginable.  Interestingly, unlike communicating threats, the cyberstalking statute does not require that the threat be believed by the person against whom it’s made or that a reasonable person would believe the threat.  This creates a lower bar for the prosecution to meet.  An attorney can analyze the nature of the comments and protect your First Amendment free speech rights.

The second section is very broad and can capture repeated messages on Facebook, social media, text messages, or any other form of communication.  The most troubling language is that if the purpose is to annoy or embarrass, it can result in a criminal charge.  Alleging free speech challenges and addressing legitimate reasons for the contact are ways in which an attorney can help navigate this part of the statute and avoid a conviction.

The third section generally criminalizes certain types of defamation over electronic communication.  This includes allegations of indecent conduct, which could be an overly broad definition giving rise to constitutional challenges.  Further, this section again includes a specific intent portion with the annoy and embarrass language.  A skilled attorney can help navigate this language to work the case out in your best interests.

Why Does it Matter?

As with any criminal charge, cyberstalking could affect your future on job applications and student loan funding.  However, this unique charge could also be a crime of domestic violence for which certain firearm rights are restricted, and could also be used to enhance punishment for other crimes later. 

If you’re uncertain about your rights in this area, please give the Gilmore Law Firm a call at (910) 490-1250 and speak with Attorney Robert Gilmore, a seasoned former prosecutor with experience prosecuting and defending these charges.

Nothing in this article should be considered to create an attorney-client relationship or be taken as legal advice.  If charged with cyberstalking, you should consult an attorney for legal advice.