Is Computer Harassment a Crime in Wisconsin?
Short answer: depending on what was said and the intent. For example, if it involves threatening rape or physical harm, murder, etc…. yes, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony.
The possible charges could include, the Unlawful Use of Computerized Communication Systems (Wis. Stat. 947.0125), and depending on what is the alleged intent and the ability to carry out the threat, the charge could also include a criminal Harassment (Wis. Stat. 947.013), or Disorderly Conduct (Wis. Stat. 947.01) charge. These are misdemeanors; however, depending on what was allegedly actually communicated, the charges could be upgraded to include felony charges. If, for example, you used Twitter and sent threatening tweets communicating physical harm, rape, murder, etc. the charges could be upgraded to include felony charges, such as Stalking (Wis. Stat. 940.32).
Misdemeanors charges could include jail time, fine/restitution and probation. Depending on the defendant’s prior record, such as if the defendant is charged as a repeat offender, significant prison time could also be the result if convicted. The consequences of a felony conviction can be even more serious.
Many of our current laws on threatening and harassing communications date back to the 1930s and the more recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Elonis v. United States hasn’t clarified the legal risk concerning threatening violence on the Internet. To read more on the recent Supreme Court decision on Internet Threats go to: http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/06/opinion-analysis-internet-threats-still-in-legal-limbo/
The courts do recognize that there are differences between what are “ true threats” which require subjective intent and what is considered free speech, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between prison time or probation and freedom. If you have been charged with any type of Internet crime contact our office to schedule a free consultation.