Any type or form of domestic violence act against another person is severely punishable. One of the most prevalent acts of domestic violence that could unknowingly land you in trouble with the law is posting harmful information online.
Posting information about an intimate or relationship partner online qualifies as harassment, especially if that particular information or image attracts hateful comments or reactions from other internet users. If you are under arrest for allegedly posting harmful or harassing information online, the sentence you could face upon conviction could be severe.
While the alleged charge could have reasonable legal grounds to stand trial, a criminal defense attorney can help prepare and present defenses to challenge the allegations for the best possible results. A defense attorney will also be your legal counsel during every stage of the criminal justice system to avoid making any mistakes that can worsen the case.
At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we have several years of experience helping defendants facing internet-related charges, and we can gladly offer you the necessary legal help too. With our skilled and experienced team of attorneys on your side, you can expect outstanding legal support for the best attainable results on the alleged offense wherever you are in Anaheim.
Understanding the Crime of Posting Harmful Information on the Internet
Also known as indirect electronic harassment, posting harmful information on the internet is a common crime in the modern era, where people of all ages can access the internet with their laptops or phones.
According to Penal Code (PC) 653.2, you commit the crime of indirect electronic harassment when you upload or post another person's information or images on the internet, knowing that it can attract other people to stalk or harass him/her. In most cases, third parties who have access to the information posted or published online can harass or threaten the victim or accuser by:
- Showing up at the victim's physical address.
- Sending unsolicited letters and emails, including obscene and threatening messages.
- Sending offensive content to the victim, for example, pornographic images and videos.
- Posting derogatory and insulting comments about the person.
You do not have to threaten or harass the victim directly for a conviction for the alleged PC 653.2 violation. The prosecutor can secure a conviction against you for a PC 653.2 violation if he/she can prove that you did provide or publish information online that can incite other people (third party) to injure, harass, or annoy the victim.
Indirect electronic harassment is a rising concern in workplaces, schools, and many homes. No wonder prosecutors and judges are strict on people charged with any internet-related crime. If you are under arrest or investigation for an alleged PC 653.2 violation, working with an attorney can give you a better chance to obtain the best possible outcome.
The Relationship Between Indirect Electronic Harassment and Domestic Violence
While any person can commit the crime of indirect electronic harassment, most people post or publish harmful information online to harm a family member or any person they have or have had an intimate relationship with in the past. A domestic violence offense is any form of threat or harassment committed against anyone listed under Family Code 6211, for example:
- Parents, relatives, and siblings.
- Boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Current or former spouse.
- A father or mother of your child.
If you commit indirect electronic harassment against any of the abovementioned people, you could face separate domestic violence penalties upon conviction.
Elements the Prosecution Team Must Prove for a Conviction Under PC 653.2
If you have a PC 653.2 violation case, you should understand and familiarize yourself with the elements or facts of the crime to prepare a solid legal defense. Explained below are the elements or facts the prosecutor must satisfactorily prove to obtain a conviction against you for a PC 653.2 violation:
You Used an Electronic Communication Gadget or Device to Avail, Email Or Distribute the Alleged Harassing Information
The first element the prosecution must prove is that you did use an electronic communication device to send or publish the alleged harassing images or information. The electronic communication devices the court will consider under PC 653.2 include the following:
- Video recorders.
- Fax machines.
- Personal data assistance (PDA).
- Social medial platforms.
Another issue that comes to light under this element is "harassment." According to PC 653.2, harassment is any intentional cause of conduct or behavior towards another individual considered annoying, tormenting, alarming, or terrorizing for no legitimate reason. Harassment using electronic communication devices is considered unlawful under this statute if:
- You did send or distribute another person's information online.
- You had the intent to make the person or his/her family fear for their health and safety.
- The posted or published information could cause harassment or annoyance to a third party.
You Had Consent to Post the Alleged Information Online
Consent is an authorization or agreement from a person to act or behave in a certain way that affects him/her. Since the prosecutor cannot assume you did not have the other person's consent, the court will expect him/her to provide adequate evidence to support this element.
Typically, the prosecutor will rely on the accuser's and eyewitnesses' testimony to prove that you did not have consent to post the alleged harassing information online. For instance, the prosecutor could argue that the victim or accuser asked you to take down or delete the alleged information or images, but you did not.
You Had the Intent or Motive to Invoke Reasonable Fear in the Victim
The prosecution team must present enough evidence to show that you had the criminal intent to make the victim fear for his/her safety or that of his/her immediate family for a conviction under PC 653.2. An example of an action that could help the prosecutor prove this element includes making credible threats to the victim before posting or publishing the alleged harassing content.
Another way the prosecutor can prove this element in court is by using the details or information you allegedly posted to harass the victim. For instance, if you did post or publish the victim's car registration number or address, that content would be enough to place the victim in reasonable fear for his/her safety. In that case, you will be guilty of indirect electronic harassment under PC 653.2.
You Achieved Your Motive or Intent to Invoke Fear in the Victim
Finally, the court will expect the prosecutor to prove that the victim identified your intent to cause fear, meaning he/she reasonably feared for his/her safety after seeing the published harassing content. If the alleged harassing information or images did not invoke fear in the victim, you would not be guilty of indirect electronic harassment under PC 653.2.
Sentencing and Potential Punishment for Indirect Electronic Harassment Conviction
The prosecutor will pursue and file the alleged PC 653.2 violation as a misdemeanor, carrying the following potential penalties upon a conviction:
- Detention in the county jail for not more than one year.
- A fine amounting to up to $1,000.
- Misdemeanor (summary) probation.
A reliable attorney could help you obtain misdemeanor probation or parole instead of serving your sentence behind bars. If the court awards this alternative sentence, you should be ready to adhere to all requirements and conditions he/she will set for your probation, including:
- Perform community service.
- Participate in mandatory individual or group counseling sessions.
- Clear all your court-imposed fines.
- Show up for any required court date.
If the accuser or victim of the offense were a domestic partner or any other person listed in Family Code 6211, the court would impose additional parole conditions under PC 1203.097, including:
- Stay on parole for not less than 36 months.
- Enrol in a batterers program for not less than 52 weeks.
- Pay at least $500 fine and any additional court assessment fee.
- Abide by the restraining (protective) order issued to the victim.
- Report your progress to the court-appointed probation officer.
On top of these standard penalties, a guilty verdict for the alleged indirect electronic harassment offense will also attract other collateral consequences, including a criminal record. A criminal record for an indirect electronic harassment charge conviction will appear during any background check.
That means a potential property owner, employer, or partner will know you have a history of indirect electronic harassment and make an undesirable decision against you. A criminal record could also affect your eligibility for a professional license, affecting your ability to pursue your dreams after serving your sentence and paying your dues for a conviction for a PC 653.2 violation.
To avoid the possibility of a re-arrest while on probation, you should abide by the required conditions. When you fail to do so, the court will issue an arrest warrant, and you could end up serving your sentence behind bars. Your defense attorney can keep you updated on what to do and not do while on probation to avoid a re-arrest.
Defenses That Could Work on the Alleged PC 653.2 Violation
There are several defenses available to challenge the alleged PC 653.2 violation. The unique defenses that could work in your favor will depend on the facts of your unique violation. Here are some of these defenses your attorney could apply:
You Did Withdraw the Alleged Harassing Content
Your defense attorney can argue with proper and clear evidence that you did withdraw or delete the alleged harassing content after realizing the potential harm it could cause the victim. However, the judge will only accept this defense as reasonable and viable if the victim has not reported any harassment or harm caused by the post.
That means if other people have harassed him/her due to the published post, this defense argument will not work out in your favor.
You Were Under Influence When Posting the Alleged Harassing Content
Intoxication is also a viable defense to challenge the alleged PC 653.2 violation. However, your defense attorney must prove with sufficient and clear evidence that the intoxication was involuntary. Further, your attorney must prove that you were unconscious or unaware of what you were doing or posting online after being involuntarily intoxicated.
If your attorney can provide sufficient and clear evidence to support this defense argument beyond a reasonable doubt, you will not be guilty of the alleged PC 653.2 violation.
You Were Coarced to Post the Alleged Harassing Information
For a PC 653.2 violation conviction, the prosecutor should prove that you had the criminal intent to place the victim in fear. If another person coerced or forced you to post the alleged harassing content, the court could have reason to believe that you did not have the motive or criminal intent to invoke fear in the victim.
Your attorney could argue that your reason for posting the alleged information was due to a fear of the potential consequences you could face if you did not comply with the demands of that person. This defense argument could work to your advantage, but your attorney must provide clear evidence to show the coercion and unwillingness to post the alleged harassing information.
You are a Victim of False Allegations
A PC 653.2 violation is a crime ripe for false allegations. If you had a bitter conflict or disagreement with your ex-lover, a thirst for revenge could compel him/her to report false allegations to the officers to have you under arrest.
A reliable attorney will keenly investigate your case details to uncover the motive behind the false allegation and help you obtain a dismissal of the alleged charge or a lighter charge with less severe consequences.
You are a Victim of Police Misconduct
Law enforcement officers are legally obligated to respect and uphold your legal rights, even if they believe you are a suspect in a particular crime. If the arresting officer's conduct violated your legal rights, the court would consider the evidence he/she obtained inadmissible, meaning it will not apply against you for a conviction under PC 653.2.
An illegal search and seizure is an example of police misconduct that can arise during an arrest for an alleged PC 653.2 violation. Other ways the arresting officers could be liable for police misconduct include:
- Failing to advise you of your legal rights before an interrogation.
- Failing to read Miranda warnings to you before an arrest.
With competent and aggressive legal assistance, this defense argument could work to your advantage for the best possible outcome.
How to Seal a Criminal Record for a PC 653.2 Violation Conviction
Since arrest and conviction records are visible to the public, it would be in your best interest to have your arrest history or record for a PC 653.2 violation sealed. As a matter of right, you qualify to have an arrest record sealed under PC 851.87 if the following is true:
- The prosecutor or district attorney did not file the alleged PC 653.2 violation against you.
- Your charge was dismissed at trial, meaning you were not guilty of the alleged PC 653.2 violation.
- The prosecutor filed the alleged PC 653.2 violation, but the court dismissed the charge later.
- You were guilty of the alleged PC 653.2 violation, but the court overturned the conviction later.
- You did undertake a pre-trial diversion or pre-sentencing program, which you completed as required.
If the court accepts your PC 851.87 petition to seal your arrest record for a PC 653.2 violation, it means no member of the public will see it and all other parts of the arrest, including:
- Rap sheet entries.
- Police reports.
Generally speaking, the court will accept your PC 851.87 petition if the sealing of your criminal record serves the interests of justice. Your defense attorney can help you file a PC 851.87 petition and provide the necessary evidence to convince the court that sealing your arrest history for a PC 653.2 violation would serve the interests of justice.
Although sealing your arrest history will prevent the general public from viewing it, law enforcement officers and the court could use it when deciding an appropriate sentence for any subsequent conviction.
Offenses Closely Related to the Alleged PC 653.2 Violation
The alleged indirect electronic harassment offense has some facts or elements that are closely related to other internet-related crimes. Depending on the facts of your unique case, the prosecutor could pursue and charge you with one or more of the following related crimes:
According to PC 646.9, you commit the offense of cyberstalking when you willfully and intentionally use an electronic device to harass or threaten another person, putting him/her in reasonable fear for his/her safety. Unlike an indirect electronic harassment offense, cyberstalking is chargeable and punishable as a misdemeanor or felony.
A felony conviction for a PC 646.9 violation will carry up to five (5) years of jail time and a fine not exceeding $10,000. However, if the alleged cyberstalking offense is a misdemeanor, a conviction will attract a fine not exceeding $1000 and a jail term not exceeding one (1) year.
Revenge porn is the crime you commit when you disseminate or distribute another person's sexual material without his/her consent. According to PC 647j4, this crime is a misdemeanor, and the prosecutor could file it against you even if the victim allowed you to take the alleged sexual images of him/her.
For instance, if your ex-girlfriend allowed you to take his/her sexual images or videos, but only for private use, posting or uploading them online can attract revenge porn charges. The prosecutor can file this charge alongside the underlying PC 653.2 violation if he/she has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction against you for both offenses.
A guilty verdict for a PC 647j4 violation will attract the following potential legal penalties:
- Up to $1000 maximum fine.
- Up to six (6) months of custody in the county jail.
PC 422 defines the crime of criminal threats and its penalties. According to this statute, it is illegal to make threats of severe bodily injury or death against another person with the intent to place him/her in reasonable fear for his/her safety. Since it is a wobbler offense, the prosecutor can file a PC 422 violation as either a felony or misdemeanor.
A conviction for a felony criminal threat charge will attract the following legal penalties:
- Up to three years (3) of detention in the state prison.
- Up to $10,000 maximum fine.
Conversely, when the prosecutor files the alleged PC 422 violation as a misdemeanor, a conviction will attract the following probable penalties:
- Up to a maximum of $1,000 fine.
- A jail sentence not exceeding one (1) year.
Annoying Texts, Emails, or Phone Calls
According to PC 653m, it is unlawful to make annoying texts, emails, or phone calls to another person with the criminal intent of harassing or annoying him/her. For the sake of this statute, the court will consider the content of your text or emails annoying if, for example, it has sexual content in it.
It is also worth noting that you could be guilty of this offense even if the alleged annoying phone call or text were a prank. A PC 653m violation conviction will attract a fine not exceeding $1,000 and up to six (6) months of jail time.
Like a PC 653.2 violation, with aggressive legal representation, the court can award you probation for any of the above-related offenses to avoid serving your sentence in jail. Ensure the attorney you will hire for legal representation on the alleged PC 653.2 violation is:
- Qualified and experienced.
- Credible and reputable.
- Accessible and available.
- Legally licensed.
Find a Defense Attorney Near Me
The alleged PC 653.2 violation can be complex, confusing, and, unfortunately, life-changing if you are guilty of the charges at trial. Hence, hiring an attorney if you are under arrest or investigation for an alleged PC 653.2 violation is important to stay on stay safe side of the law.
The attorney you will hire will investigate your charge and talk to eyewitnesses to gather evidence to prepare defenses that can work in your favor to avoid a conviction. If obtaining a dismissal or acquittal of the alleged charge is impossible, your attorney will strive to obtain a less severe charge with less severe consequences upon conviction.
We at California Criminal Lawyer Group understand the severity of the alleged indirect electronic harassment charge in the eyes of the law. Call us at 714-766-0965, and our attorneys will work to personalize the best defenses for the alleged offense wherever you are in Anaheim.