By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Laws lag behind online crimes. Society gets outraged when stories come on the news about online bullying, for example, but the truth is that the legislature naturally plays catch-up to technology.
Who knew Facebook or Twitter would become as popular as they’ve become… Much less had the foresight to know how to keep people from victimizing one another just two or three years ago?
One recent step taken by Texas is the addition of Texas Penal Code Section 33.07 which criminalizes “online harassment.” That statute was passed several legislative sessions ago and it criminalizes the creation of an account on a social networking site that not only isn’t you — but is purportedly someone else (or their persona) and was created for the express purpose to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten ANY person.
The punishment for such an offense would be a third degree felony (2-10 years TDC and/or a $10,000 fine). Similarly, it is a class A misdemeanor to send out a bogus email, text (or similar communication) purported to be from someone else that is intended to harm or defraud another person. (up to a year of county jail and/or a $4,000 fine).
The full impact of these particular Texas laws aren’t really fully understood. The main problem with criminal law as it relates to technology crimes is because the ways to commit crimes out-paces the solutions, prosecutors try to be “creative” with bending and stretching older laws that were never intended to apply to these newer problems. When prosecutors get “creative,” is when rights tend to get violated.
Computer crimes also have heavy overlapping issues with evidence rules, confession rules, and also search and seizure rules. The enactment of new codes (such as 33.07) is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ for computer crime lawyers.
Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about your own specific case, you should directly consult an attorney.