Mississippi Crime of the Week – Posting Injurious Messages (Email, Facebook, etc.)

As technology advances, so does the opportunity to violate the rights of others by committing crimes in cyberspace.  This week we discuss a seldom-used law on Mississippi’s books that makes it advisable to reread every email, text message, blog post, or Facebook update you intend to publish before you hit the send button.

It is against the law in Mississippi to “post a message for the purpose of causing injury to any person through the use of any medium of communication, including the Internet or a computer, computer program, computer system or computer network, or other electronic medium of communication without the victim’s consent, for the purpose of causing injury to any person.”  Miss. Code Ann. § 97-45-17.

Posting malicious messages on the internet (Facebook, MySpace, listservs, message boards, chat sites, etc.) is a felony in Mississippi, punishable by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years or a fine of not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), or both.

Does this apply to my iphone or blackberry?

Look at the phrase “any medium of communication” in the statute.  Since most cell phones today are tiny little computers you hold in your hand, and the technology continues to advance by “melding” the phone network and the computer networks, then it probably does.

What is the difference between this crime and the crime of cyberstalking?

When you cyberstalk someone, you are posting messages or using language designed to threaten, harass, cause bodily harm, or to extort money from your intended victim.  With this crime, your messages are posted with the intent to cause injury to a person, and the term “injury” has a broader connotation (injury to reputation, career, etc.).

How are some of the ways this crime might be committed?

Some people are very creative, and this crime (or a crime like it in another state) has been violated by:

  1.  A man getting his spouses email password, then sending threatening email messages to himself through her account, then having her arrested.
  2. Cyberbullying” – go online and google “Alexis Pilkington” and look at the tragic results of this activity
  3. Posting compromising pictures of former spouses, boyfriends, or girlfriends on the internet

This crime, like all high-tech crimes, is defensible, but only if your lawyer is familiar with the latest in technological trends and criminal defenses related to cybercrime.  I can tell you that the Cyber Crimes Unit of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is very sophisticated at investigating these types of crimes.  If you are charged with a cybercrime you will need a lawyer that is just as sophisticated.  Give me a call at 601-991-1099, or send me a email to clarence@guthriefirm.com.  I am here to help.