How Social Media Can Lead to Harassment Charges Graphic

How Social Media Can Lead to Harassment Charges

There’s no doubt that social media websites can be degrading, cruel and shocking places, but just when does conduct by social media users become criminal? While social media often seems like an unregulated “Wild West” — full of people venting, arguing and slinging insults at each other, there is a limit. And, going past this limit can land individuals in serious legal trouble. 

Harassment and Threatening Behavior Online

In Iowa, a person commits harassment when, with intent to intimidate, annoy or alarm another person, the person communicates with another by telephone, telegraph, writing or via electronic communication without legitimate purpose and in a manner likely to cause the other person annoyance or harm. That electronic communication includes social media. 

This means that certain social media conduct can be prosecuted under state law. If an individual is harassing or posting messages threatening bodily harm or forcible felony online, an investigation may be started. This doesn’t mean that online political fights are grounds for an investigation, but if serious threats are perceived, a harassment charge may follow. 

Degrees of Harassment

  • First Degree. A person commits harassment in the first degree when the person commits harassment involving a threat to commit a forcible felony, or commits harassment and has previously been convicted of harassment three or more times under this section or any similar statute during the preceding ten years. It is an aggravated misdemeanor. 
  • Second Degree. A person commits harassment in the second degree when the person commits harassment involving a threat to commit bodily injury, or commits harassment and has previously been convicted of harassment two times under this section or any similar statute during the preceding ten years. It is a serious misdemeanor. 
  • Third Degree. Any other act of harassment is harassment in the third degree. It is a simple misdemeanor. 

For more information on harassment charges in Iowa, contact Des Moines criminal defense attorney James Nelsen P.L.C today.