No matter where a person goes, there is always the possibility of being accused of committing a criminal offense, even if the likelihood is very small, and social media is no exception. Regardless of the forum, though, if a criminal accusation is made, a criminal defense attorney should be contacted immediately to ensure the ensuing criminal process is conducted fairly and promptly. Especially as it concerns social media, people rarely think about this possibility as they go about their daily lives. This lack of awareness is due in part to the pervasiveness of social media in the lives of millions of Americans. People use it to check up on friends and family, read the news, organize events, vet potential new hires, and even to earn a living. In many ways, it is now harder to stay off social media than to join its ranks. This method of communicating and absorbing information is so ingrained in society, the line on what is permissible, and what is not, is not always easily discernible. Given how much people rely on social media, understanding which actions on these forums could be considered criminal is important to everyone. To that end, a discussion on crime and social media will follow below.
Online Threats and Harassment
Responding to online postings negatively or making controversial statements is an everyday occurrence on social media. In fact, it seems people do not feel the need to censor themselves online as they would in a face-to-face confrontation. This tendency to overlook the wisdom of considering the ramifications of a statement before posting opens a person up to allegations of committing a crime. In California, it is illegal to make threatening statements that put another person in fear for his/her life. This offense is referred to as ‘criminal threat,’ and is an issue anytime a person makes a statement threatening harm or death. The threat must be specific and definite and put the other person in reasonable fear for their safety. Conveying a threat via text or another form of electronic communication is within the definition of the crime. Importantly, the person issuing the statement does not need to have the ability to carry it out, which is particularly relevant to statements appearing online. This offense is classified as a wobbler under California, so it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Most people have heard of hacking and have some idea that it involves the unauthorized access of computers, but most also assume that it is primarily limited to sophisticated overseas operations seeking to steal a person’s identity. However, acts that potentially trip the law against the unauthorized access of a computer and its data do not need to be that refined. California criminalizes the intentional access of a computer without permission to take, copy or use its data. This means that accessing a friend’s social media and posting an embarrassing message may be forgivable, but also may qualify as a crime. This offense is also a wobbler, and subject to fines up to $10,000 and/or three years in county jail.
Finally, finding buyers for unwanted items is one of the most convenient aspects of social media, and the vast majority of transactions conducted in this manner are well within the bounds of the law. Problems arise, though, when regulated items, such as firearms, are sold by an owner to another private citizen. The sale of firearms must be done through a licensed dealer, and sales between private individuals could lead to criminal charges. However, various exceptions apply to the licensed dealer requirement, so a criminal defense attorney should be consulted if there is an issue. Unlike the other offenses mentioned, this offense is only chargeable as misdemeanor, and brings fines up to $1,000 and/or six months in county jail.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Facing criminal charges is a serious and overwhelming situation that is best handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at the Manshoory Law Group, APC in Los Angeles are ready to help you understand and navigate the criminal process. They offer clients creative and aggressive defenses to obtain the best possible results. Attorneys are available 24/7. Contact us today for a free consultation.