In the past, stalking was a crime that required two people to be in each other’s physical presence. A person may follow another person around school or from work to home, for example.
In today’s digital age, stalking no longer requires physical presence. In fact, you can stalk someone from your home, as long as you have your own computer, tablet, phone, or other electronic device. This is known as cyberstalking and it has become a huge issue in many states, including Maryland.
Like regular stalking, cyberstalking consists of repeated nonconsensual contact between one person and a victim. The contact may involve texts, emails, online chats, social media posts, and other electronic-based contact. Some people will even track their victims via apps and devices. Eighty percent of stalking victims are via cyberstalking. It often causes fear or emotional distress to the victim.
It is hard to know just how many people are being cyberstalked, as many victims do not report the behavior to police. They feel like there is no recourse, since the activity is happening online. The good news is that many states are taking notice and creating new laws to protect victims and severely punish offenders.
The law is confusing when it comes to cyberstalking. On a federal level, stalking is against the law. In 2013, federal stalking laws were amended to include stalking by “any interactive computer service or electronic communication service.”
However, each state handles cyberstalking differently. While technology such as apps and devices like Apple AirTags can quickly be put to use by stalkers, the law is updated a lot slower. Maryland has been keeping on top of cyberstalking trends and is making changes to legislation to include electronic communications and tracking devices.
House Bill 148 was introduced by Del. Sandy Bartlett, and signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in April. The bill came about after advocates against domestic violence described stalkers increasingly using digital technology in their harassment of victims. Many have turned to placing location-based devices in victims’ vehicles and possessions to keep track of where they’ve been traveling. These devices can pinpoint or track the location of another without the person’s knowledge or consent and will be prohibited under the law. Cameras and microphones can also be placed in victims’ homes or children’s toys to monitor activity and conversations.
Stalking will remain a misdemeanor under the new law, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine of $5,000.
Online crimes are growing in popularity because they are so easy to execute. Stalking is easier than ever, causing a lot of concern.
A person who engages in cyberstalking or cyberbullying can be caught and convicted of a serious crime. They can face harsh punishment. Protect yourself with legal help from a Columbia internet crime lawyer from The Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. Schedule a free consultation by filling out the online form or calling (410) 774-5987. We have two offices to serve you.
7310 Ritchie Highway, Suite 910
Glen Burnie, MD 21061
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10440 Little Patuxent Parkway,
Columbia, MD 21044