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Cyberstalking in Illinois: Old game, new rules

Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about stalking in Illinois. Stalking can happen during an Illinois divorce, in a dating relationship, or between total strangers. Though before perpetrators had to spend time following victims or conducting surveillance in person, the Web now allows stalkers to terrorize from their computers.

Thankfully for Illinois cyberstalking victims are protected by Illinois anti-cyberstalking law (720 ILCS 5/12-7.5). The law is very liberal in its definitions of what constitutes cyberstalking, both in terms of the type of communication channels that can be used to cyberstalk, and what the stalker has to say or write to fall within the statutes scope.

What modes of communication are covered?

Even though the law is entitled “Cyberstalking” by the Illinois legislature, a stalker can violate the statute without using the Internet.

For instance, where the law refers to “electronic communication,” it covers use of the Internet as well as “any [other] transfer of signs, signals, writings, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectric, or photo-optical system. “

The use of the term “any other transfer of signals” means that just about any electronic means of communication could fall under the prohibitions of this statute and be considered within the liberal definition of “electronic communication.” For instance, since mobile phones transmit by “radio” waves, mobile phones are covered.
So are fax machines, since they transmit by “wire.”

The point is that if a victim is being stalked in a way that includes receiving any type of electronic communication, it is quite possible that the stalker is violating the Illinois “Cyberstalking” statute.

What type of stalking is prohibited by this statute?

The stalker is in violation of this particular statute when the following occurs.

  1. Generally: Electronic communication is directed at a specific person (not a group of people), and the stalker knows or should know that as a result, reasonable person would either: (a) fear for his or her safety, or the safety of a third person, or (b) suffer emotional distress.
  2. Threats or creating fear of imminent harm: The stalker knowingly, and without legal justification, sends electronic communication is used to harass another person on at least two separate occasions, and one of the following also occurs:
    1. Threat: the stalker transmits threats of future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint and the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person, or
    2. Fear of immediate harm: the stalker places the intended victim or a victim’s family member in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; or
    3. Solicitation: the stalker knowingly solicits the commission of a crime (as defined by the Illinois Criminal Code) an intended victim or a family member of the intended victim.
  3. Website use: A stalker can be in violation of the cyberstalking statute (720 ILCS 5/12-7.5) when the stalking knowingly and without lawful justification, creates and maintains an Internet website or webpage which is accessible to anyone else for at least 24 hours, and which contains statements harassing another person and one of the following occurs:

    1. Threats: the stalker communicates a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, where the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person, or
    2. Fear of immediate harm: the stalker places that person or a family member of that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, or
    3. Solicitation: the stalker knowingly solicits the commission of a crime (as defined by the Illinois Criminal Code) an intended victim or a family member of the intended victim.

Resources for Illinois Cyberstalking Victims

There are a number of resources that stalking victims can use:

  1. Police: Illinois stalking victims can call their local police and report stalking behavior. Calling the police can help protect stalking victims and can create a record of the stalker’s behavior.
  2. National hotlines: National telephone hotlines can assist people that need help. Before you contact a hotline, consider avoiding using a phone or email to which your stalker may have access (in terms of listening in to a phone line, viewing your Web browsing history, and the like).

    The National Center for Victims of Crime
    :
    Phone: 800-394-2255
    Email: gethelp@ncvc.org
    Website: www.ncvc.org

    The National Domestic Violence Hotline:
    Phone: 800-799-7233