Mississippi Crime of the Week – Cyberstalking

The general definition of cyberstalking is the use of the Internet, e-mail, or other electronic communications to “stalk” another person.  Stalking – a separate crime in itself – involves willful, malicious, or repeated harassment of another person, or threats against another person made with the intent to place that person in fear of death or bodily injury.  The rapid advance of computers and the Internet as a large part of our personal and professional lives has added another dimension to the existing crime of stalking, and so the state of Mississippi responded in 2003 with one of the country’s first cyberstalking laws.
In Mississippi, it is unlawful for a person to:
  1. Use in electronic mail or electronic communication any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person’s child, sibling, spouse or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person.
  2. Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of threatening, terrifying or harassing any person.
  3. Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another and to knowingly make any false statement concerning death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct, or criminal conduct of the person electronically mailed or of any member of the person’s family or household with the intent to threaten, terrify or harass.  And finally,
  4. Knowingly permit an electronic communication device under the person’s control to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section.  (PAY ATTENTION TO THIS – It is against the law to let someone borrow your cell phone when you know they are going to use it to harass someone).

Cyberstalking is a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than two years or a fine of not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or both.  But if you commit the crime while violating a restraining order, or while on probation or pretrial release, etc., or you’ve done it before, or the prosecution proves that a “credible threat” has been communicated, then the punishment increases to imprisonment for not more than five (5) years or a fine of not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), or both.  Miss. Code Ann § 97-45-15.

There are several federal statutes that criminalize forms of cyberstalking as well, and it is important for your lawyer to be familiar with all of them.  Cyberstalking is a relatively new, high-tech crime, and it has equally high-tech defenses.  If you are accused of cyberstalking give me a call at 601-991-1099 or contact me here.  I have defended computer crimes since 1999, and I am here to help.