UPDATE: The Illinois Appellate Court declared this law unconstitutional on June 24, 2016. See our related post Illinois Stalking and Cyberstalking Laws Declared Unconstitutional.

You broke up with your girlfriend. You still had something you wanted to say. But she wouldn’t talk to you so you kept instant messaging her. Finally, you IMed that she better talk to you “or else.” Now you are charged with cyberstalking.

What is cyberstalking? What can happen to you? What can you do?

In Illinois, you can be charged with cyberstalking if you use electronic media to harass someone else on at least two separate occasions. Electronic media includes texts, emails and voice mails. You must also have knowingly and without lawful justification transmitted a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, confinement or sexual assault against that person or their family or you must have caused that person or their family to reasonably fear immediate or future harm.

And your stalking need not be one on one. It is still cyberstalking if you solicit someone else to do the harassment for you. Additionally, you can be charged if you knowingly and without legal justification maintain an internet page accessible to more than one person for at least 24 hours that 1) threatens someone, 2) causes them or their family to fear immediate or future harm or 3) solicits others to harm that person or their family.

Cyberstalking on a first offense is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1 to 4 years in prison. Further offenses are a Class 3 felony punishable by 2 to 5 years in prison.

If you are charged with cyberstalking, consult an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not talk about your case with the police or third parties. Do not try to explain yourself. You may just end up digging yourself in deeper. What you think is justification might give the prosecution the evidence they need to convict you.

An experienced attorney can review your case to help you present the best possible defense. As with most criminal charges, the state must prove you guilty of all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Did you act knowingly? Were your actions without legal justification? Did your statements go beyond harassment? Was the victim’s fear of bodily harm reasonable? Was the internet page posted without your knowledge?

Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an experienced attorney who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See: 720 ILCS 5/12-7.5: Cyberstalking.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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