Texas Law on Cybercrime: Online Impersonation
Cybercrime is on the rise in the United States, including in Texas. Among these crimes, online impersonation strikes out as a very expensive form. Legally, it might be classified as cyberbullying, harassment, or fraud, depending on the goals and specific circumstances involved.
Because the internet allows users to remain anonymous, it can occasionally attract people to adopt false identities. Creating false social media profiles is a simple process, making it all too easy for people to impersonate others online. Online impersonation in Texas, even if done without bad intentions and just for fun, is a serious crime with severe punishments.
In Texas, online impersonation or catfishing means pretending to be someone else on social media or a website. The intent is to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person.
Texas Law on Online Impersonation History
As technology, computers, and the internet improve, so does the Texas legislature. In 2009, the legislature acknowledged the necessity of addressing the state’s growing problem with online impersonation.
Many other states have similar statutes, and some characterize this offense as cyberstalking. This law often affects people who have had tough breakups. People create fake profiles on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to get back to their former partners. These profiles are made with the intention of pretending to be their ex.
In 2011, this rule changed to encompass significant social media services. The increasing trend of people impersonating others online with limited penalties spurred the development.
Texas lawmakers addressed the issue of fake social media accounts that are used for harassment or deception. This action was taken in response to the growing number of individuals involved in this behavior. For example, if they made a fake social media account using their ex-partner’s name to damage their reputation, they could be charged with online impersonation.
Examples of Online Impersonation
There are several behaviors that might result in criminal charges for online impersonation, according to Texas Penal Code 33.01. Some of these illegal practices include entering into another person’s online account and making purchases or activities in their name. The following are some more behaviors linked to online impersonation that are prohibited by the Texas Penal Code:
- Using another person’s identity to post messages.
- Creating a web page on a commercial social networking site or other internet in another person’s name.
- Creating a social media profile under the guise of another individual.
- Sending electronic mail programs or message boards while falsely claiming responsibility for them.
These behaviors involve using the internet or electronic communication to pretend to be someone else without their permission. However, it is important to highlight that these activities are only considered illegal if the perpetrator intends to damage the victim. The offense does not require physical injury. In the context of online impersonation, injury to a person’s reputation, such as defamation or extreme shame, would also be classified as a type of harm.
Is Online Impersonation a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
Impersonating someone online in Texas can lead to criminal charges. The severity of the crime decides if it’s a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalties you incur if you are convicted of online impersonation are determined by the facts of your case.
Sending someone’s personal information without their knowledge through electronic means like email, chat, or text message is a class A misdemeanor. This could result in:
- A 12-month prison sentence is possible.
- A penalty as high as $4,000 could be imposed.
Creating a fake profile or chatting on social media as someone else is a serious crime, punishable by a third-degree felony. This more serious offense could lead to:
- A prison sentence of up to ten years is possible.
- A penalty of $10,000 could be imposed.
Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!
Most likely, your intention wasn’t to cause any harm, but merely to enjoy yourself by impersonating another person on the internet. However, it’s critical to recognize that fake online identities are punishable under Texas law. If you are accused of online impersonation, act quickly to protect your rights and future. We recommend contacting the Texas Criminal Defense Group, which can provide you with a competent criminal defense attorney.
Being accused of internet impersonation might cause serious problems in your life. Moreover, the US legal system is strict. Not preparing a good defense can lead to a long prison sentence of up to 20 years in a state prison.
You can relieve many of these costs by retaining expert legal representation. Our area of expertise is defending those accused of cybercrime. We aim to protect you from aggressive prosecution and ensure your rights are protected during the legal process.