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  • What Is Cyberstalking?

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Although many people know what cyberbullying is, the definition of cyber stalking is less widely known. Cyberstalking is a form of online harassment during which one party is allegedly threatening, intimidating, keeping tabs on, or trying to control another person through online activity. The rise in social media bullying and harassment spurred some states to create criminal statutes to address online misconduct specifically.

    Cyberstalking is increasingly prevalent in today’s society. In 2019 alone, approximately 1.5 million people over the age of 16 reported being cyberstalked. Currently, approximately 7.5 million people experience cyberstalking annually. 

    Contact an attorney to discuss what to expect if you or a loved one were accused of cyberstalking. Our New Mexico Criminal Law Offices team can answer your questions and point you in the right direction.

    What Is Cyberstalking in New Mexico?

    New Mexico does not outline a specific offense for cyberstalking. However, the State authorizes criminal stalking charges, so it is up to the prosecutor to prove the stalking occurred online. 

    In New Mexico, stalking (NMSA 30-3A-3) means knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct, without lawful authority, directed at a specific person when the actor intends that their pattern of conduct would place the individual in reasonable apprehension of death, bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint.

    A “pattern of conduct” means two or more acts, on more than one occasion, in which the alleged stalker, by any action, method, device, or means, follows, monitors, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about a person.

    The act can occur directly, indirectly, or through a third party and is still considered stalking. For a stalking charge, the statute requires at least two or more acts on more than one occasion to qualify as a pattern of conduct.

    New Mexico defines aggravated stalking as stalking committed:

    • By knowingly violating a permanent or temporary order of protection issued by a court, except that mutual violations of such orders are a valid defense;
    • In violation of a court order setting conditions of release and bond;
    • While in possession of a deadly weapon; or
    • Against a victim less than 16 years of age.

    New Mexico imposes severe penalties for individuals convicted of stalking and aggravated stalking.

    Penalties for Cyberstalking in New Mexico

    In New Mexico, stalking is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The stalking charge increases to a fourth-degree felony if the accused has a prior stalking conviction.

    A fourth-degree felony (NMSA 31-18-15) is punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Aggravated stalking starts as a fourth-degree felony and increases to a third-degree felony with a previous conviction. A third-degree felony is punishable by up to 3 months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. 

    Examples of Cyberstalking

    The following can constitute cyberstalking in New Mexico:

    • Using surveillance devices to spy on someone without their consent;
    • Sending repeated threatening messages to the victim through social media; or
    • Releasing a victim’s personal or private information to the public.

    Defenses to Cyberstalking Charges

    In some cases, a legal defense applies that defeats an element of the stalking offense. The prosecution bears the burden of proving each element beyond a reasonable doubt. If a legal defense applies to your case, we can negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss your charges. Legal defenses that may apply to cyberstalking charges include:

    • The victim wrongly identified you as their cyberstalker;
    • You did not engage in repeated conduct;
    • You did not intend to place the victim in fear of death, bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; 
    • The victim fabricated the accusations against you; or
    • A reasonable person would not interpret your comments as threats.

    A legal defense may not apply in every cyberstalking case. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer can review your case to determine whether a valid defense applies. 

    What Is Considered Cyberstalking? Contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices Today to Find Out

    Our attorneys at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices have more than two decades of experience defending the rights of individuals facing criminal accusations in New Mexico. We prepare for each case as if we are going to trial and do not rely on unfavorable plea agreements to resolve our cases.

    We give each client our full attention and conduct a thorough investigation, crafting a strong defense strategy to bolster the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Our team has the knowledge and resources necessary to help you resolve your case. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with an attorney.