A criminal conviction for cyberstalking in Virginia can have severe consequences and a lasting impact on your life and livelihood. If you’ve been accused of criminal cyberstalking, it’s important to understand what this means and how a conviction could impact your legal rights, your quality of life, and your future. An experienced criminal defense attorney with Whitestone Young can help protect your rights.
What Is Cyberstalking?
Any type of stalking is against the law in Virginia, but cyberstalking has a specific definition and penalties. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-152.7:1, cyberstalking is called “harassment by computer.” This law makes it illegal to use a computer or computer network, such as the internet, to:
- Intentionally coerce, intimidate, or harass another person
- Communicate any language that is “obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious, or indecent”
- Make any obscene suggestions or proposals
- Threaten any illegal or immoral acts
In Virginia, cyberstalking is prosecuted as a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious category of misdemeanor crimes, which means several criminal penalties may apply.
Additionally, there are other statutes that can be applied to stalking-type behavior. Virginia code § 18.2-60 applies to written threats: “Any person who knowingly communicates, in a writing, including an electronically transmitted communication [i.e. text message], a threat to kill or do bodily injury to a person…or any member of his family…is guilty of a Class 5 felony.” So emailing or texting a person and threatening to kill or hurt them may be prosecuted as a felony.
Penalties for First-Time Cyberstalking Offenses
Virginia law provides for harsh penalties for cyberstalking convictions. Those found guilty of cyberstalking misdemeanor in Virginia can face up to twelve months in prison, a fine of $2,500, or both. Sending a written threat carries up to 10 years in prison.
After conviction, the state may also impose a restraining order against the offender on behalf of the victim.
Penalties for Repeat Offenses
If you’re accused of a subsequent cyberstalking or related criminal offense within a period of five consecutive years, you could be charged with a Class 6 felony. Class 6 felonies are the lowest category of felony offenses under Virginia law but still carry harsh penalties.
A conviction for a repeat offense within five consecutive years could mean up to five years in state prison, $3,000 to $10,000 in fines, or some combination thereof. If there isn’t a restraining order already in place, the court will likely issue one after conviction. If the offender is granted probation or their sentence is suspended, the court may require them to attend mandatory counseling or medical treatment sessions.
Other Penalties and Consequences
A criminal conviction for cyberstalking or related offenses in the state of Virginia can impose other severe penalties and consequences, including:
- Penalties for violating restraining orders – Failure to obey the terms of a court-imposed restraining order could result in a contempt of court Possible penalties for contempt of court include up to $250 in fines and up to 10 days in prison.
- Employment-related consequences – Those with a criminal record face severe limitations to future employment prospects. Convicted offenders may be denied the opportunity to obtain certain professional licenses, and private employers who conduct background checks may refuse to offer them jobs.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you face criminal cyberstalking charges in Virginia, the help of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is vital. State prosecutors are aggressive and relentless, but the resources and experience of a lawyer can help protect your rights and avoid potentially devastating consequences.
The Fairfax criminal defense attorneys of Whitestone Young can review every detail of your case to identify possible strategies for defense. Armed with the facts, we can work to persuade the courts to reduce the severity of the charges or even have the case dismissed entirely.
To learn more about what we can do for your case, contact us for a confidential consultation.