Today’s technology has dramatically impacted the way we interact with each other, communicate and keep in touch. It has also shaped how we draw and enforce our boundaries. Thus, when someone crosses a line, it can be difficult to know what the consequences – if any – will be.
Stalking, or criminal harassment, is one offence that can be complicated by technology. It can make it easy to track a person down, contact them and see what they are doing. However, these behaviours online or offline can trigger criminal charges and penalties.
Traditional examples of stalking include:
- Following someone without their knowledge or permission
- Sending gifts to a person’s home or work
- Repeatedly contacting someone
- Making threats
- Harming a person or pet
These unwanted actions could be against an ex, an ex’s new partner, a colleague or a stranger, and they could be grounds for arrest and prosecution.
Digital technology has made it easier to engage in these behaviours. It can allow someone to hide behind a fake profile, misrepresent themselves and gain access to someone’s personal communications. Examples of cyberstalking include:
- Sending repeated and systematic negative or threatening messages through social media or email
- Utilizing tools to monitor a person’s digital activities
- Making false statements about a person to prompt a reaction or embarrass them
- Vandalizing a person’s website or social media
- Accessing financial accounts without permission
When these actions make someone feel harassed, frightened or humiliated, they could warrant criminal charges.
Penalties of stalking
Whether stalking activities occur in the real world or online, there are harsh penalties for this unlawful behaviour, particularly when it becomes violent. A person convicted could face:
- Imprisonment of up to 10 years
- Fines and penalties
- Orders to stay away from the victim or specific locations
- Bans on the use of internet
These penalties can be disruptive and unpleasant, and they can destroy a person’s future. Thus, it is crucial to know what constitutes stalking and what can happen upon conviction.
If you are accused of criminal harassment, remember that you have the right to work with a lawyer to defend yourself and give your side of the story.