Cyberstalkers beware

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For those who have ever been seriously harassed through text messages or online forums, some legal recourse may become available.

A bill, which cleared the legislature on Wednesday, is headed to the governor’s desk and will offer protections for victims of cyberstalking and other forms of online harassment.

The bill would prohibit a person from posting text, audio or images on a website to abuse, threaten or harass someone. Harassers couldn’t make repeated or offensive phone calls with the purpose of alarming victims during inconvenient hours.

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The measure would also keep harassers from causing victims to believe that their family members will be physically or mentally harmed. Harassers would be barred from urging others to menace the victim through any form of written communication or verbal graphic gestures.

Violators could face a first-degree misdemeanor on a first offense and a fifth-degree felony on each subsequent offense.

Currently, instances of cyberstalking and online harassment fall under existing criminal statues, such as telecommunications harassment and menacing. But often times, those laws aren’t enough for victims to seek legal recourse.

Those who seek to intimidate and frighten others behind the shadow of the Internet or cell phones should take note that those actions have consequences and lawmakers are finally stepping up to make sure those consequences have more teeth.