A decade ago social media was seldom a factor in criminal investigations. Today, cyber bullying and other forms of online intimidation form a key part of many cases, meaning both prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys need to keep up to date with the world of social media.
In a recent article The Dallas Morning News reported how prosecutors say a high school student from Irving strangled his 16-year-old girlfriend and controlled her via social media and text messages.
The report said he changed her Facebook password and wouldn’t give it back until she agreed to date him again. He was accused of sending numerous text messages threatening to kill himself so that she’d respond.
Prosecutors accused Jacob Boyd of using social media and other threats against his high school sweetheart, Racheal Wiest. Last month, a Dallas County jury convicted the 18-year-old of murder for her death. He was sentenced to 80 years in jail.
The article said the behavior fitted the classic definitions of domestic violence which occurs among dating teens as well as families. One in three American adolescents suffers sexual, physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
Prosecutors said Boyd, a junior at the school, took advantage of Wiest’s isolation, “using social media, peer shaming and sex to control her during their frequent break ups.” The Dallas Morning News reported.
Using social media can constitute a crime in Texas when it takes the form of “cyber bullying.”
When Cyber Bullying Constitutes and Offense in Texas
Students who bully online may face consequences from their schools as well as the criminal law. Their actions could constitute:
The crime of harassment occurs when someone threatens, intentionally communicates an obscene proposal, conveys a false report or sends a message that is intended to annoy, alarm, harass or embarrass.
Harassment is either a Class A or B misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. (Texas Penal Code § 42.07.)
If you intend to harm, defraud, or intimidate and you create a page on website or send messages purporting to be someone else without their permission, you could be guilty of impersonation which can be a felony or a misdemeanor under Texas Penal Code § 33.07.
There are a lot of shades of gray in these offense and teens can at time lack good judgment online. If you have been accused of a cyber offense, you should talk to an experienced Dallas Criminal attorney.