After creating a Craigslist ad displaying another woman's phone number and Facebook picture, a Texas woman has been charged with a third-degree felony for online impersonation. This type of felony is a result of cyber legislation, which is becoming more and more common as a larger number of Internet users participate in social networking.
Online impersonation became a crime in 2011 when legislators modified the online harassment law that was passed in 2009. Impersonation with the intent to defraud, threaten or harm another through the use of Internet can result in a felony charge and lead to a fine and up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors often find it difficult to prove online intent, however, and criminal defense attorneys are likely to point that out during trial.
It can be difficult to separate intent from social and cultural values that affect how a person acts and what they view as right or wrong. Currently, the Texas woman is out on bail, and it remains to be seen how the situation will be resolved.
With the popularity of social networks and the growing number of people accessing them through computers, mobile phones and tablets, online crimes and the definition of them will most likely continue to evolve. Consequently, allegations of criminal activity linked to online abuse will be hard to prove. If a person is charged with a crime related to Internet use, it may be beneficial to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help guide him or her through the legal process.
Source: Houston Chronicle, "Felony to crack down on social media abusers yet to gain traction," Erin Mulvaney, Nov. 24, 2012