With the rise of social media, more people are victims of cyberstalking. This is a serious crime that creates real fear for the victim and real danger when combined with physical stalking. North Carolina is one of only six states to have a specific criminal cyberstalking law.
Cyberstalking can damage your credit, your reputation, and your confidence. It may involve the use of spyware software that gives the offender access to all the information on your computer or smartphone. The offender may be someone you know or he or she may be a stranger.
If you are a victim of cyberstalking -- especially if the cyberstalker is someone whom you have or have had a domestic relationship with -- it is important to understand what legal remedies you have to protect yourself beyond filing a criminal report.
Cyberstalking in North Carolina
Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or other electronic communications to harass, threaten, or intimidate another person. The offender may monitor Internet activity, make threats, steal identities, or otherwise manipulate the victim. The threats may come through social media, email, or another electronic form.
If you are a victim of cyberstalking, make a report to law enforcement, either in person or from a public telephone. If you suspect the cyberstalker is someone close to you, you may also be able to obtain a protective order in North Carolina.
North Carolina Protective Orders against Cyberstalkers
North Carolina allows a victim of cyberstalking to obtain a Protective Order, also called a 50B Order, in some cases under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50B. The victim must have a qualifying relationship with the offender, which North Carolina law specifies is one of the following:
- Spouse (current or former)
- Have a child in common
- Household members (current or former)
- Dating relationship.
North Carolina law is very specific that a victim can only seek a Protective Order when he or she has a qualifying relationship with the offender and experiences significant emotional distress due to fear of imminent bodily injury or continued harassment.
A permanent Protective Order is valid for one year and may be renewed.
Violating a Protective Order is a Class A1 Misdemeanor in North Carolina. The offender could serve up to 150 days in jail and ordered to pay a discretionary fine.
North Carolina Civil No Contact Order
If the victim does not have a qualifying relationship with the cyberstalking offender, he or she may qualify for a Civil No Contact Order under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 50C. This order, sometimes called a 50C Order, is signed by the judge and orders the offender to stop communicating with or otherwise contacting the victim.
A permanent Civil No Contact Order is valid for one year.
Unlike a Protective Order, a Civil No Contact Order does not have any criminal penalties associated with it. If the offender violates the order, he or she can only be charged with contempt of court.
Protect You and Your Family from Cyberstalking in North Carolina
You can help protect yourself from cyberstalkers by:
- limiting other people's access to your computer or smartphone;
- installing high-quality security software;
- creating strong passwords; and
- keeping online calendars private.
Teach your children the same habits. Search your name and your children's names online to see what information is publicly available.
And if it is a family member cyberstalking you while you are in the middle of a divorce, custody battle, or other family law matter, you may also want to seek legal representation alongside a protective order. Contact your attorney or Jerkins Family Law to learn more.