In this blog series, we are examining the impact of technology on violence against women crimes, as identified by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) Safety Net Project. In the coming weeks, the IACP Violence Against Women team will focus on Sexting, Email and Online Evidence Collection, Posting Content Online, and Spyware and Safety. Our first post focused on High Tech Stalking, and today’s post will highlight laws to charge perpetrators who misuse technology.
To support the safety and privacy of victims and hold perpetrators accountable, it is important to take technology‐facilitated abuse and stalking seriously. This includes assessing all ways that technology is being misused to perpetrate harm and identifying all charges that should be applied. When an offender misuses technology to target and harm a victim, various criminal and civil charges can be applied under a number of U.S. federal and state/territory/tribal laws.
- Laws that specifically address violence and abuse, even when the crime occurs through the use of technology and electronic communications. For example, if an offender gives the victim a cell phone, with the intention of tracking the victim’s movement, the offense is still stalking. Some laws that are specific to violence and abuse include stalking and cyberstalking (felony menacing by; via electronic surveillance), harassment, threats, assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, sexting (non-consensual; underage), and child pornography.
- Laws related to technology, communications, privacy, and confidentiality. In some cases, offenders are using technology illegally in order stalk, harass, and abuse or breaking other laws in order to harass, stalk, and abuse. For example, the offender hides a camera inside the victim’s house for the purpose of spying on the victim. Some laws that are specific to technology, communications, privacy, and confidentiality include unauthorized access, unauthorized recording/taping, Illegal interception of electronic communications, illegal monitoring of communications, surveillance, eavesdropping, wiretapping, unlawful party to call, computer and Internet crimes (fraud, network intrusion), identity theft, impersonation, pretexting, financial fraud, and telecommunications fraud.
- Look to see if the perpetrator violated laws in multiple jurisdictions, including state and federal levels. In addition to local/state laws, U.S. federal laws might be relevant. For example, the U.S. Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) addresses access, use, disclosure, interception, and privacy protections of electronic communications.
Keep in mind that in some cases of stalking or abuse, it is a pattern of behavior that constitutes illegal actions. Pay attention and document what is happening when victims come forward with seemingly innocuous or unexplainable occurrences. In most cases of stalking, sexual assault, and domestic abuse, the offender is known, and the offense is not a one-time crime.
For more information on laws to charge perpetrators who misuse technology, check out NNEDV’s fact sheet. You can also contact the NNEDV’s Safety Net Project by clicking here. Be sure to visit their Tech Safety blog for additional information on technology safety.
If you have questions about the IACP’s Violence Against Women efforts, please contact Michael Rizzo, IACP Project Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the IACP’s National Law Enforcement Leadership Initiative on Violence Against Women webpage.