Cyberstalking. This ominous-sounding word was coined to describe illicit activity using an online medium. In many cases, cyberstalking allegations are sexual in nature. In Ohio, engaging in online behavior with a sexual motivation that causes an individual to feel threatened or to suffer mental distress can qualify as cyberstalking. In Ohio, that’s called “Menacing by Stalking.”
Menacing by Stalking: Ohio Revised Code 2903.211
The exact phrasing of Ohio’s Menacing by Stalking statute reads as follows:
(1) No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person or cause mental distress to the other person. (2) No person, through the use of any electronic method of remotely transferring information, including, but not limited to, any computer, computer network, computer program, or computer system, shall post a message with purpose to urge or incite another to commit a violation of division (A)(1) of this section. (3) No person, with a sexual motivation, shall violate division (A)(1) or (2) of this section.
What constitutes “sexual motivation”?
According to Ohio’s Menacing by Stalking statute, “sexual motivation” here means the same thing as it does in section 2971.01 of the Ohio Revised Code. According to the definition laid out in that statute, sexual motivation means “a purpose to gratify the sexual needs or desires of the offender.”
Cyberstalking Charges: Misdemeanor or Felony?
Menacing by Stalking is usually charged as a first degree misdemeanor. However, there are some circumstances that could qualify the offense as a fourth degree felony. There are nine such circumstances, which include:
- This is not the first cyberstalking offense for the defendant
- There was a direct threat of physical harm
- The offense involved trespassing
- If the victim was under the age of 18
- The defendant has a violent history
- The defendant had a deadly weapon
- The defendant had a protection order filed against them at the time
- The alleged victim suffered serious physical harm on their own property at the hands of the defendant
- Prior to the offense, the defendant engaged in behavior that evidenced a threat to themselves or others
In Ohio, Cyberstalking is often investigated by the Cyber Crimes Unit of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. If the Cyberstalking allegations involve an alleged victim or victims in another state, the FBI may get involved. Cyberstalking allegations that involve minors may draw the attention of Ohio’s Crimes Against Children Initiative, which has experience investigating online chat, peer-to-peer sharing, and other computer technology.
Contact an Experienced Firm
If you or someone you know is currently under investigation for cyberstalking, particularly if the allegations involved a sexual element, we invite you to contact the Ohio cyberstalking lawyers at Koffel Brininger Nesbitt today.
Countless individuals have trusted us with their defense while facing sex crime allegations. Get in touch with us today to see how we could help you.