Computer Harassment / Stalking: “Implied” Threats Can Constitute Harassment

What is the crime of Computer Harassment / Stalking?  A recent case from the Court of Appeals answers this question and gives a good explanation of how even “implied” threats can violate the law.

A man previously convicted of stalking his ex-girlfriend was convicted on Computer Harassment stemming from repeated messages to her.  The Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction.

Virginia Code sec. 18.2-152.7:1 criminalizes the sending of computer messages that communicate obscene, vulgar, profane, lewd, lascivious or indecent language; or make any suggestion or proposal of an obscene nature; or threaten any illegal or immoral act.

In this case, the man did not overtly violate this statue.  The Court recognized that the e-mail texts weren’t literally violations.  However, because of the context, the threats were implied.  The context included a prior stalking conviction, the sending of 40 messages over a few days, and repeated appeals to sex.  The Court found an implied threat:  if the victim did not apologize for refusing to acknowledge their sexual relationship and thereafter express her willingness to continue it she would pay a price.

The case is Moter v. Commonwealth, 1301-11-2 (February 19, 2013).  It was out of the Spotsylvania County Circuit Court.

May Law are criminal defense lawyers who defend computer crime allegations and stalking cases.