In this section, our attorneys explain Nevada’s criminal laws and legal concepts, A to Z
Criminal Defense » Is Internet Trolling a Crime in Nevada?
In a recent survey, 28% of Americans admitted they had directed malicious online activity at someone they didn’t know. In many cases, such activity is protected by the First Amendment. But in other cases, such activity can subject you to a lawsuit or a criminal prosecution.
Malicious online activity can take various forms in Nevada, including:
The good news is that before you can be subjected to criminal penalties for electronic communications or internet comments, there must be evidence that you intended to cause harm to your alleged victim.
You “troll” when you post inflammatory or inappropriate messages or comments online for the purpose of upsetting other users and provoking a response.
Trolling is not, in and of itself, against the law. However, if the information you post is false or private, the person you post about might be able to sue you for a violation of Nevada’s defamation or invasion of privacy laws.
And when trolling crosses the line into cyberbullying or cyberstalking – that is, when the comments or communications contain personal information or threats, or are obscene or harassing — there are several Nevada criminal laws they might violate.
Nevada law also protects public school students from online, text and email harassment and cyberbullying. In addition to any applicable civil or criminal consequences, students who engage in such behavior can be disciplined by school authorities.
Cyberstalking is prohibited under Nevada’s law against stalking, NRS 200.575. A person commits cyberstalking when he or she:
“Stalking” occurs when, without lawful authority, someone willfully or maliciously engages in a course of conduct that:
Cyberstalking is a Nevada Category C felony. Penalties can include up to 5 years in Nevada State Prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. In addition, people who reasonably believe they are being cyberstalked can petition a court for a Nevada restraining order. If granted, the restraining order will prohibit the alleged cyberstalker from having any contact or communication with the alleged victim.
The Nevada crime of harassment, NRS 200.571, is similar to the crime of stalking. Both consist of behavior that causes another person to reasonably fear harm to him- or herself or his or her family.
However, whereas cyberstalking usually involves trying to force contact with a victim, cyber harassment involves a direct threat of harm such as:
Like the crime of cyberstalking, harassment via electronic media is a Nevada Category C Felony. It can be punished in the same way as cyberstalking, with penalties that can include up to 5 years in Nevada state prison and/or as much as a $10,000 fine.
In extreme circumstances, texts, emails or internet posts can be prosecuted under NRS 202.448, Nevada’s law against making “terrorist threats.”
A cyber terrorist threat occurs when someone uses an internet post or an email or text message to threaten substantial injury or destruction to the general population by means of sabotage or violence.
Making a terrorist threat in Nevada is a serious felony. Punishment can include as much as 2 – 20 years in Nevada State Prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
NRS 388.121 and subsequent sections set forth procedures under which Nevada public schools are to provide a safe and respectful learning environment free of bullying and cyber-bullying.
“Cyber-bullying” is defined as bullying through the use of electronic communication. The term includes the use of electronic communication to transmit or distribute a sexual image of a minor.
“Bullying” includes communications that place a person in reasonable fear of physical harm or property damage and create an intimidating or hostile educational environment and are based upon actual or perceived characteristics such as race, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation or disabilities or associations with people with such actual or perceived characteristics
Acts that constitute cyberbullying range from name-calling to spreading false rumors to cyberstalking.
Nevada law has strict mandatory reporting requirements for teachers and other staff members who witness or are informed of cyberbullying. If these requirements are not complied with, a parent or guardian of a pupil may petition a court of competent jurisdiction for a writ of mandamus to compel the performance of any duty imposed on schools by Nevada’s anti-cyberbullying laws.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects your right to freedom of speech.
But this right is not absolute. The Supreme Court of the United States has carved out exceptions based on false statements, obscenity, child pornography and incitements to violence. Prohibitions on cyberbullying are seen by proponents as an extension of these rights. Opponents see them as an unreasonable prohibition of protected speech.
It can be a challenge for legislatures and courts has been to balance the desire to protect victims of cyberbullying with legitimate free speech concerns. It is particularly difficult since courts are not always in agreement about what is constitutionally permitted.
The United States Court has not yet weighed in on the issue, though it certainly seems possible in the future. In the meantime, if you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal violation of Nevada’s cyber harassment, bullying or stalking laws, we welcome the opportunity to help. To schedule a free consultation with one of our caring Nevada criminal defense, personal injury, immigration, and family law attorneys, simply contact us via the form on this page. Or call us to speak with a lawyer in the nearest office.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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