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Are there statutes prohibiting cyber bullying or harassment against ADULTS in California?

Chula Vista, CA |

I was recently threatened on Facebook. Someone commented (several times) that I should die a painfuln miserable death and that he knew how to find me where I live. He then escalated this to 12 harassing tweets on Twitter.

I filed a report to FB (which they are still "reviewing" since January 1) and filed a police report. One statute an officer found relates to threatening someone's life online, but it has to be both more imminent and more definitive than the comments that were made to me, in order to rise to that level of a felony.

In other states, it is a misdemeanor to threaten someone or harass them like that.

My question is: Are there statutes (outside of the education code) in California that would apply to this kind of harassment? What are the statutes?

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer
Posted

Yes. California Penal Code section 646.9, stalking:

646.9. (a) Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly
follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who
makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in
reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her
immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking, punishable by
imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a
fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that
fine and imprisonment, or by imprisonment in the state prison.
...
(g) For the purposes of this section, "credible threat" means a
verbal or written threat, including that performed through the use of
an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern
of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically
communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place
the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for
his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with
the apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the
person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or
her safety or the safety of his or her family. It is not necessary to
prove that the defendant had the intent to actually carry out the
threat. The present incarceration of a person making the threat shall
not be a bar to prosecution under this section. Constitutionally
protected activity is not included within the meaning of "credible
threat."

I am an Attorney-at-Law, licensed to practice law only in the state of California. Unless we have both signed a formal retainer agreement, you are not my client, and my discussion of issues does not constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of those who hold other opinions.

Asker

Posted

PERFECT! Thank you so much! I'll email that to the police Lieutenant who is helping me!. Seriously, the description is exactly what I think applies. I hope he does.

Gary Ralph Ilmanen

Gary Ralph Ilmanen

Posted

Happy to help! Good luck!

Philip Douglas Cave

Philip Douglas Cave

Posted

Very nice. Educational for all of us. Thanks.

Asker

Posted

I'll let you know what the Lieutenant says after the holiday, and our D.A. when it gets to her office.

Gary Ralph Ilmanen

Gary Ralph Ilmanen

Posted

Thanks, Philip! Asker, that will be nice... crossing my fingers for you.

Posted

It is quite possible that Penal Code section 653m (see below) applies to your circumstances. Hopefully this helps; I'm happy to respond further should you have any fol.
low up questions

653m. (a) Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith. (b) Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device, or makes any combination of calls or contact, to another person is, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device, guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business. (c) Any offense committed by use of a telephone may be deemed to have been committed when and where the telephone call or calls were made or received. Any offense committed by use of an electronic communication device or medium, including the Internet, may be deemed to have been committed when and where the electronic communication or communications were originally sent or first viewed by the recipient. (d) Subdivision (a) or (b) is violated when the person acting with intent to annoy makes a telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device requesting a return call and performs the acts prohibited under subdivision (a) or (b) upon receiving the return call. (e) Subdivision (a) or (b) is violated when a person knowingly permits any telephone or electronic communication under the person's control to be used for the purposes prohibited by those subdivisions. (f) If probation is granted, or the execution or imposition of sentence is suspended, for any person convicted under this section, the court may order as a condition of probation that the person participate in counseling. (g) For purposes of this section, the term "electronic communication device" includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular phones, computers, video recorders, facsimile machines, pagers, personal digital assistants, smartphones, and any other device that transfers signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, or data. "Electronic communication device" also includes, but is not limited to, videophones, TTY/TDD devices, and all other devices used to aid or assist communication to or from deaf or disabled persons. "Electronic communication" has the same meaning as the term defined in Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

Asker

Posted

I will also forward this statute to the Lieutenant. This is amazing! Thank you so much!

Keith David Kassan

Keith David Kassan

Posted

you're very welcome - feel free to mark the response "best answer" if indeed it is. Thank you and good luck!

Keith David Kassan

Keith David Kassan

Posted

Ps. see language reading: "For purposes of this section, the term "electronic communication device" includes, but is not limited to, ... computers ..."

Asker

Posted

I'll emphasize that to the Lieutenant when I'm in touch with him on Tuesday.

Posted

I would look into a Civil Harassment Restraining Order at the very least. More information can be found here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/1044.htm

I am not your attorney, and my responses on Avvo should not be considered legal advice.

Asker

Posted

I hadn't thought about that. That is a great idea too!