Chicago Intentional Tort Cyberstalking Lawyer
Online harassment of others has become disturbingly prevalent in recent years. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 73% of adults on the internet have witnessed online harassment in some form, and 40% of those users reported personally experiencing online harassment. At its base, online harassment encompasses any behavior where one person uses technology to intimidate, harass, threaten, or stalk another person. This could involve sharing private information with others, sending inappropriate and unsolicited pictures, and even using someone’s social media account to stalk and harass them.
If you’ve been the victim of online harassment or cyberstalking, the attorneys at Wallace Miller could help you seek answers and justice. An intentional tort is an injury or harm done to someone else with purposeful intent, and you could seek fair compensation through swift and decisive legal action against the person who is cyberstalking you. Contact us by phone or online for a 100% free and confidential consultation today.
The Legal Definition of Cyberstalking in Illinois
According to Illinois state law, cyberstalking occurs when someone uses any form of electronic communication to target someone else, with the stipulation that the perpetrator should know that their behavior would either cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of someone else or that it would cause them emotional distress.
The statute then expands this definition to include situations where a person threatens physical or sexual harm, confinement, or confinement of a family member. This statute also covers illicit surveillance technology, such as spyware and camware programs, which they could use to spy on someone else remotely.
The advent of social media has complicated the definition of stalking. Now, someone could potentially stalk their victim from anywhere on earth. The Illinois legislature updated its stalking laws in 2019 to include cyberstalking charges, making it easier to prosecute cyberstalking and for cyberstalking victims to seek legal remedy in a civil suit.
Illinois’ cyberstalking law is broad enough to cover any repeated and unwanted online communication, whether from comments and replies or direct messages, emails, or websites set up to stalk a victim or victims.
Thanks to this new law, victims of cyberstalking have the same legal protections that victims of stalking already have. Under criminal law, this could result in a felony for anyone convicted of the charge. Under civil law, this could result in injunctive relief and monetary damages for the victim.
What Steps Should I Take?
Stalking victims often report being stalked by someone they know. This could be an ex who repeatedly calls and sends threatening messages or a former friend or work acquaintance doing the same. The first step you should take if someone is cyberstalking you is to ensure your safety. Tell family and friends what’s going on, and call the police if you feel you’re in imminent danger.
Another tool at your disposal is the social media platform or email tool itself. Every major platform has a policy against harassment, and you should be able to block the stalker and report any new accounts they may create to stalk you. While this may not solve the problem, getting documentation of the stalker’s behavior can bolster your case later.
One aspect of cyberstalking that works in your favor is that it’s comparatively easy for a cyberstalking victim to document what’s being done to them. Take screenshots of all text messages the stalker sends you, as well as call logs that show repeated attempts to contact you. Save all emails and any other digital communication you might receive.
What Do I Need to Be Able to Prove?
Since Illinois law recognizes cyberstalking in much the same way as regular stalking, the same essential criteria apply. Here are the elements you’d need to be able to prove to succeed in court (only one is required to qualify as cyberstalking):
- The defendant engaged in behavior that would cause any reasonable person to either fear for their safety or someone else’s safety, and the defendant did this knowingly.
- The defendant conducted surveillance on you without legal authority or consent, and they did this knowingly.
- The defendant restrained or confined you without your consent or legal authority.
To prove cyberstalking happened, you must be able to provide documentation of behavior that would meet one of the above criteria. Most importantly, you’ll want to give testimony that this behavior caused you to be afraid for your safety.
What Are Common Defenses to Cyberstalking Claims?
Defendants facing legal action because of cyberstalking often take three specific paths to attempt to prove their innocence: freedom of speech, lack of intent, and the relevance of consent.
Freedom of Speech
A defendant might argue that the first amendment protects their behavior. While this would apply to isolated comments that aren’t threatening, this does not apply to a pattern of behavior where the defendant is instilling fear and making threats. To counter this argument, your attorney will use clear documentation of the defendant’s repeated attempts to contact you, surveil you, or both. They’ll also highlight threatening messages.
Lack of Intent
A defendant could also try to exploit the language of the law, arguing that they had no intent to cyberstalk you. If the defendant claims they didn’t intend to cyberstalk you, you can provide proof that they did that, and you’ll have a better chance of succeeding in court.
The Relevance of Consent
Often a cyberstalking defendant will use the matter of consent to fight legal action against them. They might argue or provide evidence of your initial consent to some type of contact. While this could be considered a viable defense, it’s also important to note that permission is ongoing. If you initially consented to communication but then changed your mind, this might help your case. For example, you might show that you revoked consent if you requested the person to stop messaging you or if you blocked or reported the defendant’s online account or accounts.
What Can I Do To Prevent Someone from Cyberstalking Me?
You have the right to seek legal remedy for the harm caused by a cyberstalker. You can also file a civil suit along with reporting to law enforcement and potentially getting the perpetrator criminally charged. This doesn’t often result in monetary damages for the victim unless another crime was committed, such as assault or battery. With that said, you may be able to get injunctive relief in the form of an order of protection. The judge may also opt to instate a no-contact order, depending on the specifics of the case.
Wallace Miller Could Help
While cyberstalking is legally no different from standard stalking behavior, courts can sometimes not take the threat of this behavior as seriously as they would physical stalking. Because of this, it’s essential to have legal counsel on your side that can effectively advocate for you and lay out the facts of your case.
Another thing to remember with civil cases is that criminal charges are not prerequisites. You could bring a suit against a charged and convicted perpetrator as readily as you could for someone who hasn’t faced any legal repercussions yet.
At Wallace Miller, we know how cyberstalking, and online harassment can upend a person’s entire life. Social media has the incredible capacity to connect, but it also makes it far easier for stalkers to threaten and harm their victims. Whether criminal charges are pending, our attorneys could file a civil suit and help you stop this behavior.
Because of the persistence of many cyberstalkers, victims may struggle for months or even years to escape their unwanted attention, having to delete or private their accounts and become hyper-vigilant about everything they post. We can seek injunctive relief for you so that your stalker will be legally prohibited from ever contacting you again.
If you’ve been the victim of cyberstalking, the Chicago intentional tort attorneys at Wallace Miller will be ready to help you seek answers and justice. Call us or contact us online for a free case evaluation today.