Social media has changed just about everything about life, including the way people carry out crimes. Before the internet and social networks, committing a crime required legwork. These days, however, it’s possible to engage in crime without ever leaving the house.
In some cases, people don’t realize that the activities they do online could land them in trouble with the law. Just because someone is behind a computer screen, however, doesn’t mean they’re truly anonymous — or safe from potential prosecution. In fact, cybercrimes have accelerated at a rapid pace in recent years. According to a report from Information Age, cybercrime is projected to cost $2 trillion by 2019, which is a threefold increase from 2015. Additionally, there were 38 percent more cybercrimes in 2016 compared to 2017.
While it may have taken law enforcement a few years to catch up with the pace of computer crimes, federal and state officials have begun monitoring cybercrimes more actively than they did in the past. This awareness is why it’s important for people to be careful about the things they say and post on social media. It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t convey tone over the internet, and what one person intends as a joking tone may be perceived by someone else as a threat. If you have been charged with a state or federal crime in Texas, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Texas as soon as possible.
Online Threats and Cyberbullying
Stalking is charged as a serious state crime in Texas. Today the internet has made it easier to engage in harassment and threats simply from your computer. When it comes to online harassment and cyberbullying, states like Texas have even passed new laws that impose strict penalties for engaging in online harassment.
In 2017, a new Texas law went into effect that imposes serious penalties for cyberbullying in Texas. Known as “David’s Law,” the statute targets school-related bullying carried out online.
Examples of illegal conduct under the law include sending bullying text messages, emails, or instant messages, spreading rumors online, creating a fake profile of another person, or taking or sending embarrassing pictures without permission. The law is specifically designed for cyberbullying that occurs within the educational context, and the bullying must take place on school property, a school bus, or at a school-sponsored activity like a sports game.
It didn’t take long after the internet became popular for people to start using it as a way to engage in financial fraud. Whether it’s an email scheme designed to dupe people into handing over their financial account information, or a thief using someone else’s identity to purchase products online, fraud is a very serious crime that can result in a lengthy prison sentence, restitution and other penalties.
Online fraud is an area in which it’s also quite common for federal authorities to get involved. Most online fraud is facilitated through electronic communications which is one of the reasons why these types of crimes fall under federal jurisdiction. It’s also possible that if individual states don’t have the resources to pursue a computer fraud investigation, federal law enforcement may take over a case. This situation can lead to an individual facing much more serious charges under federal law than they might face under state law. Likewise, it can result in a longer prison sentence if the person is convicted under a federal statute.
Purchasing Illegal Items
People mistakenly assume that social media gives them a form of anonymity to make illegal purchases. In some cases, people may use social media to operate an illegal business. Other people may use social media to buy drugs or other illegal items.
People may also use social media as a vehicle for connecting with a drug dealer or someone who can obtain illegal goods or services. In recent years, it’s not uncommon for police to monitor social media for the purpose of detecting when individuals attempt to use social networks to carry out a crime.
Sharing Videos of Crimes
It may sound unbelievable, but people have also used social media to livestream crimes as they happen. With a smartphone, just about anyone can record a video and share it online. Sites like Facebook, Snapchat and Periscope make it easy to stream videos live to an audience. When individuals stream a crime or an illegal activity, they basically deliver incriminating evidence directly into a prosecutor’s hands.
Using Social Media to Plan Theft
If you post your vacation status or location on social media, you could be making yourself and your property vulnerable to potential thieves. Location check-ins may be a fun way to let your friends know where you’re staying while you’re on vacation, but they also tell the world that you’re away from home.
There have been cases in which burglars planned their robberies by checking social media to determine when a homeowner was on vacation and away from their house. It’s also a good idea to avoid sharing photos online of costly purchases, such as a new television or a brand new car. Even if your privacy settings are restricted, a friend could share your photo or tag someone in it, which can lead to it being available to the general public.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a social media crime, or any type of internet crime in Texas, contact the best criminal defense lawyers today at the Broden & Mickelsen, LLP in Dallas.
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Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case.