It’s one thing to go online to forget the daily grind for a little while and assume the role of a fictional character while playing video games. Yet criminal defense attorneys in Texas stress that it’s something entirely different to go online and impersonate someone or attempt to assume their identity.
The former is harmless fun. The latter, as criminal defense lawyers warn, can result in criminal charges being filed against the impersonator. Unfortunately, attorneys who handle criminal defense cases find that some people may be unintentionally putting themselves at risk without realizing it.
What is the Definition of Online Impersonation?
According to Texas state law, online impersonation is defined as one person’s use of another person’s name or persona without their permission to do so in order to defraud, intimidate, or harm them.
Criminal defense attorneys find that most people are not even aware of this law and can be charged with assuming the persona of others as a joke or to damage someone’s reputation.
Unfortunately, doing so can leave individuals in need of legal assistance from criminal defense lawyers who have experience with such charges.
What Activities are Considered Online Impersonation?
While criminal defense attorneys agree that many people may not know of the laws concerning online impersonation, the scope of activities that count as such is fairly broad. A person can be charged with criminal impersonation when doing any of the following with the intent of defrauding, intimidating, or harming the individual being impersonated:
- Creating a webpage, commercial social media profile, or other website using someone else’s identity.
- Posting or sending messages through a commercial social media network or other website using someone else’s identity.
- Sending IMs, emails, texts, or other messages using someone else’s identity with the goal of getting others to believe it is that person communicating with them.
Many cases of online impersonation that criminal defense attorneys see tend to revolve around domestic disputes, with one person in a relationship seeking to cause harm to the other person. Others involve celebrity impersonation or the impersonation of a stranger or friend. Charges and penalties are typically made based on individual circumstance and the impersonator’s intent.
While not all impersonations are meant to cause harm, the interpretation of these cases and how the laws are applied can be somewhat vague. In addition, while some forms of impersonation when required for job duties may be permissible by law, other benign impersonations are also defendable as free speech, making these cases even more challenging to handle.
What are the Penalties for Online Impersonation?
Criminal defense lawyers warn that even when done as a joke, anyone assuming another’s persona online could face criminal charges and the penalties that go along with them. Someone who impersonates another with the intent of either causing them harm or getting others to believe it is that person could be charged with a 3rd degree felony for either of the first two acts listed above or a Class A misdemeanor for the third act.
As criminal defense attorneys stress, both of these charges can result in steep fines and even jail time if there is a conviction. As noted above, charges, convictions, and penalties usually depend on the severity of the crime and the intent of the impersonator.
Impersonating someone online may seem like fun and games to some; however, criminal defense attorneys know that doing so can cause unexpected problems for anyone who chooses to assume another persona. Regardless of the reason for doing so, whether to get a laugh or to defame someone, online impersonation is a crime in Texas that could leave impersonators needing the services of criminal defense lawyers.
Anyone charged with the crime of online impersonation should contact criminal defense attorneys experienced with such charges to be sure their case receives fair consideration based on the individual reason for impersonating someone else!
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