The increased use of the internet in California has created loopholes for malicious and criminal activities online. These internet crimes involve harassment, cyberstalking, and the intentional posting of harmful material to annoy or harm others, especially related ones.
If you harm your intimate partner by sharing derogatory images or information about them on the internet, you can be arrested and charged under California Penal Code 653.2. Violating PC 653.2 is considered a domestic violence offense and carries severe legal penalties. Even after serving jail time and paying hefty fines, the consequences of a conviction could continue to impact your personal and professional lives.
If you or a loved one is facing charges in Pasadena for posting harmful content online, seek the assistance of a skilled criminal lawyer. Our experienced attorneys at Pasadena Criminal Attorney specialize in defending against domestic violence charges, including those related to PC 653.2. Contact us today.
The Legal Definition of Indirect Electronic Harassment
You are charged with indirect electronic harassment when you use electronic means to harass, intimidate, or threaten another individual indirectly. This form of harassment typically occurs through various digital platforms, including social media, emails, text messages, or any other form of electronic communication.
Harassment and Stalking With Electronic Devices
Harassment is defined as engaging in conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel seriously alarmed, annoyed, or harassed. Stalking is willfully and maliciously harassing someone else and making a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.
Harassment and stalking are serious offenses that can be facilitated through the use of electronic devices. With the widespread availability of advanced technology, individuals can engage in harassing behavior using various digital platforms.
Harassment through electronic devices encompasses a range of behaviors that are intended to annoy, intimidate, or alarm another person. These include sending offensive or threatening messages, sharing explicit or private content without consent, or engaging in relentless online stalking. The use of electronic devices allows harassers to reach their victims instantly and maintain a constant presence, intensifying the impact of their actions.
Sending or Distributing
Sending or distributing harmful content could involve sending offensive or derogatory messages, images, or videos directly to the victim or a broader audience. The content may focus on the victim's personal traits like race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, aiming to cause emotional distress or embarrassment.
Additionally, harassers may distribute private or intimate content without the victim's consent. This form of harassment, commonly known as "revenge porn," aims to shame or degrade the victim by sharing explicit images or videos online. Such acts violate the victims’ privacy and can have devastating consequences for their personal and professional lives.
The Distributor’s Effect
The prosecution must establish that you intended to cause harm, fear, or distress to the victim through your actions. This demonstrates a deliberate and malicious motive behind the harassment, distinguishing it from inadvertent or accidental behavior.
The distributor's effect can be inferred through your choice of language, the explicit nature of the content shared, or any accompanying threats or demands. Courts often consider the distributor's state of mind and the impact their actions had on the victim when determining the severity of the offense and potential legal consequences.
Harassment can have profound psychological, emotional, and even physical consequences for the victim. Constantly seeing offensive or threatening content, worrying about being targeted, and losing privacy can cause anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health issues.
Victims may feel afraid, embarrassed, or ashamed and have lower self-esteem. Their personal relationships, professional lives, and overall well-being can be severely affected. In extreme cases, victims of electronic harassment may even contemplate self-harm or suicide.
Unauthorized access refers to the act of gaining entry to or using a computer system, network, or online account without proper authorization. The act of unauthorized access violates both legal and ethical boundaries. It undermines the integrity of computer systems, compromises the privacy and security of individuals' personal information, and can lead to financial loss, identity theft, or other forms of cybercrime.
Perpetrators of unauthorized access often have malicious intentions, such as stealing sensitive data, distributing malware, or causing disruption to services or networks. From a legal perspective, unauthorized access is typically considered a criminal offense.
Examples of Electronic Communication Devices in California
California, like many other jurisdictions, recognizes the importance of electronic communication devices in our daily lives. These devices play a significant role in facilitating communication and connecting people across vast distances. They include:
- Smartphones: These enable voice calls, text messaging, video calls, and access to various communication apps, social media platforms, and email services. Smartphones also offer internet connectivity, allowing users to stay connected wherever they are.
- Computers and Laptops: Computers and laptops are electronic communication devices providing access to email, instant messaging services, video conferencing platforms, and social networking sites. With their larger screens and full keyboards, they offer enhanced capabilities for writing, editing, and managing digital communication.
- Tablets: Like laptops, tablets provide convenient access to email, web browsing, social media, and various communication apps thanks to their wider screens.
- Wearable Devices: These are devices you can wear, like smartwatches and fitness trackers, and have features that let you receive notifications, send messages, and make calls right from your wrist. They also integrate with smartphones, enabling seamless communication while on the move.
- Voice Assistants: Voice assistants, like Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri, use voice recognition technology to provide information, answer questions, and perform tasks through voice commands. They can also facilitate communication by making hands-free calls and sending voice messages.
- Video Conferencing Devices: Video conferencing devices, such as webcams or conference room systems, are widely used for remote communication and collaboration. These devices enable high-quality video and audio communication, allowing individuals and teams to connect and conduct meetings virtually, regardless of their physical location.
With the ever-evolving technological landscape, new devices and communication tools continue to emerge, further enriching our means of connecting and communicating with one another.
Elements that the Prosecution Must Prove
The prosecution must present sufficient evidence to prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt before the court can convict you. These elements form the basis of the case and are crucial in determining your guilt or innocence. These include:
You Posted Harmful Information on the Internet
The prosecutor bears the responsibility to prove to the court that the information you posted online was harmful. This information can include text, images, or any other content that can be viewed by others online.
Also, the information must have been intended to harass or threaten another person. The harm can be physical, emotional, or reputational. If your words or actions online hurt others deeply and lead to stress, anxiety, depression, or even self-harm, you could face a conviction.
You Are Related to the Alleged Victim
Since posting harmful information on the internet is a domestic violence crime, the prosecution must show that you are related to the alleged victim. You must have a familiar or dating relationship with the victim or have previously had such a relationship.
This element recognizes that relationships of trust and intimacy can be used as a means of control. Hence, the harm inflicted by someone in such a relationship can be particularly devastating. If the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant is related to the alleged victim, the charge of posting harmful information on the Internet cannot be sustained.
You Achieved the Intent to Cause Fear
Intentionally causing fear through harmful information posted on the internet is when you want to cause fear in the alleged victim or another person. This means that you must have had the purpose or objective of making the victim feel scared, intimidated, or threatened when you posted harmful information on the internet.
The intent to cause fear can be established by various means, such as:
- Direct evidence, for example, statements you made before or after posting the harmful information.
- Circumstantial evidence, for example, the nature and context of the harmful information.
The intent to cause fear can be directed at either the alleged victim or any other person who might see the harmful information. It is not necessary for the victim to have experienced fear or suffered any harm, as long as you had the intent to cause fear.
Relationship Between Domestic Violence and Penal Code 653.2
Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects countless individuals and families in California. To address and combat domestic violence, legal systems have implemented various laws and statutes to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable. One such law is Penal Code 653.2, which specifically relates to the relationship between domestic violence and certain forms of communication.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Domestic violence refers to a pattern of abusive behavior used by one person in a domestic relationship to exert power and control over another. It can happen in different ways, such as physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse. Domestic violence knows no boundaries and can affect individuals regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status.
Electronic Communication to Harass or Threaten, Under Penal Code 653.2
Penal Code 653.2, often referred to as the "electronic communication to harass or threaten" statute, addresses a specific aspect of domestic violence related to communication. This law recognizes that domestic violence can extend beyond physical acts of abuse and include the use of electronic communication to harass, intimidate, or threaten victims.
Penalties for posting harmful things on the internet
Depending on the jurisdiction and the specific circumstances, posting harmful information on the internet can be classified as a misdemeanor offense. Upon conviction, the following are possible penalties:
- Serving not over a year in jail.
- A fine not exceeding $1,000.
- Summary probation.
Common probation conditions for domestic violence convictions may include:
- No contact orders: You are required to maintain a certain distance or have no contact with the victim or any other individuals involved in the case.
- Counseling or therapy: The court may mandate participation in counseling or therapy programs focused on anger management, domestic violence intervention, or related issues.
- Substance abuse treatment: If substance abuse was a factor in the offense, you could be required to attend and complete a substance abuse treatment program.
- Regular check-ins: You could be required to regularly check in with a probation officer to provide updates on their progress and compliance with probation conditions.
Legal Defenses to Penal Code 653.2 Charges
When facing charges under Penal Code 653.2, which pertains to electronic communication used to harass or threaten, there are legal defenses available that can help protect your rights and potentially lead to a favorable outcome. These include:
You Did Not Share Information Without Consent
Consent plays a crucial role in determining the legality of sharing personal or sensitive information. By asserting this defense, you are contending that you had the necessary permission or authorization to share the information in question.
With this defense, you would need to demonstrate that:
- You obtained explicit and informed consent from the individual whose information was shared.
- The consent obtained was valid and lawful.
- You shared the information within the bounds of the consent given.
- If the individual revoked their consent at any point, you promptly ceased sharing their information thereafter.
There are limitations and exceptions to consent, such as situations involving sensitive or protected information, breaches of confidentiality agreements, or when the sharing of information violates other applicable laws or regulations.
You Were Not Trying to Incite Harassment
Establishing that your intent was not to encourage or provoke others to engage in harassing behavior can be an important aspect of your defense strategy. However, you would need to demonstrate the following:
- You did not have the intention to instigate or promote harassment toward the alleged victim or any other individuals.
- Your communication or content did not contain explicit instructions or directives encouraging others to harass, threaten, or harm the alleged victim or any other individuals.
Note that this defense relies on demonstrating that your communication or content was not intended to incite harassment. However, the interpretation of intent can be subjective and may require careful examination of the specific details and circumstances surrounding your case.
Coercion to Display the Information
Coercion means using force, threats, intimidation, or other types of pressure to make someone do something. You could use this defense if you were subjected to coercion or undue influence by another person or entity.
You could also argue that you had no reasonable alternative or escape from the coercive situation. The defense of coercion to display the information may require substantial evidence to support your claims, for example, documentation and witness testimonies.
This defense asserts that the prosecution has not presented enough credible evidence to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. By challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, you are questioning the strength and reliability of the prosecution's case against you.
You could argue that the evidence presented by the prosecution is insufficient or lacks credibility by challenging the authenticity, accuracy, or reliability of the evidence. For example, you could question the source of the evidence, whether it has been tampered with, or if it was lawfully obtained.
Also, you could highlight the absence of direct evidence linking you to the alleged posting of harmful information. If there is no clear evidence directly connecting you to the offense, it can weaken the prosecution's case.
False allegations mean that the allegations made against you are untrue and were fabricated with malicious intent or for personal gain. To support your defense, present evidence that supports your claim.
Also, have your lawyer look for inconsistencies or motives that may suggest the allegations are baseless. Seek out corroborating evidence that supports your innocence or contradicts the allegations, for example, surveillance footage, digital records, or witness statements.
Sealing a Penal Code 653.2 Arrest
If you have been arrested or charged with posting harmful information on the internet, you may be concerned about the long-term consequences it can have on your record and reputation. One potential option to mitigate these effects is to seek the sealing of your arrest record.
Sealing the record can help protect your privacy and prevent the public disclosure of your arrest and related information. It involves the following steps:
- Eligibility: Eligibility requirements depend on factors such as the disposition of your case, the completion of any required sentence or probation, and the absence of subsequent criminal convictions.
- Petition for record sealing: File a petition with the court requesting the sealing of your arrest record. This typically involves submitting a formal application along with supporting documents that demonstrate your eligibility and the reasons for seeking record sealing. The application may require information such as your details, case information, and any rehabilitation or community service efforts you have undertaken.
- Court review and hearing: The court will review your petition and consider various factors, including the nature of the offense, your criminal history, the impact of the arrest record on your life, and any objections from the prosecution. In some cases, a hearing may be scheduled to allow both parties to present their arguments before a decision is made.
- Decision and sealing of the record: If the court determines that you meet the requirements for record sealing and there are no objections, it may grant your petition. The arrest record will then be sealed, meaning it will no longer be accessible to the public. However, it is important to note that certain entities, such as law enforcement agencies and certain employers, may still have access to sealed records under specific circumstances.
Offenses Related to California PC 653.2
Offenses related to PC 653.2 violations include:
Revenge porn involves the non-consensual distribution of explicit or intimate images or videos of another person to cause harm, embarrassment, or distress. Revenge porn can involve posting such materials on the internet, sharing them through messaging platforms or social media, or disseminating them in any other way that makes them accessible to the public.
Possible penalties for revenge porn are misdemeanor or felony convictions or fines, depending on the circumstances of the case. Misdemeanor offenses may carry a sentence of up to one year in county jail, while felony convictions can lead to imprisonment for up to ten years. The court may impose significant fines as part of the penalty, ranging from several thousand dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Criminal threats involve making threats that reasonably and credibly communicate an intent to cause great bodily injury or death to another person. These threats can be spoken, written, or sent electronically, including through the Internet or social media platforms. The threat must be specific and immediate, instilling a well-founded fear in the recipient that the threat will be carried out.
If convicted of criminal threats in California, the potential prison term can range from several months to several years. Sometimes, instead of going to jail, the court may allow probation as an option. Probation may include specific conditions such as mandatory counseling, anger management programs, restraining orders, or restrictions on contact with the victim.
Additionally, the court may require you to compensate the victim for any harm or costs caused by the threat.
Sending Harmful Material to a Child
Sending harmful material to a child means deliberately sending inappropriate or harmful content to someone under 18 years old, intending to seduce, solicit, or engage in any improper or indecent behavior.
This material may include sexually explicit images, videos, text messages, or any other content that is considered harmful or obscene for minors. The act of sending such material is typically accompanied by the intention to seduce, solicit, or engage in any lewd or lascivious conduct with the child.
Sending harmful material to a child is typically charged as a felony offense in California. A conviction could result in up to ten years of incarceration. Also, a conviction requires mandatory sex offender registration. This means that you must register as a sex offender and comply with specific reporting requirements.
Find a Reliable Pasadena Criminal Attorney Near Me
In California, domestic violence involves serious offenses that encompass various forms of abuse, such as physical violence and harassment. Beware! Even posting information on the internet to harm or annoy an intimate partner can lead to arrest and charges under California PC 653.2. The consequences of a conviction under this statute are serious and can significantly impact your life.
A skilled attorney will assist you in thoroughly investigating the case and building a robust defense strategy. If you find yourself charged with posting harmful information on the internet in Pasadena, CA, seek legal guidance, which we provide at the Pasadena Criminal Attorney. Feel free to reach out to us at 626-689-2277 to schedule a consultation and discuss the specific details of your case.