The United States is still trying to catch up with all of the assorted behaviors that have developed and changed with the advent of the internet. Many have created some sort of “cyberstalking” law in an attempt to combat the popular negative communications that occur on the internet, often involving minor children. Cyberstalking in Louisiana can be found as Louisiana Revised Statute 14:40.3.
While I understand completely the purpose and emotional backing of these laws, if you look at the law itself you will see just how stupid it is. Look at section (B) and how it defines the crime of cyberstalking:
B. Cyberstalking is action of any person to accomplish any of the following:
(1) Use in electronic mail or electronic communication of any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to such person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person.
Seems straightforward enough, right? There really isn’t much wrong with this definition, as a threat to inflict bodily harm on another is somewhat serious and may rise to the level of criminal behavior in my mind. However, the real issues is the punishment for cyberstalking, which is found at C.(1) :
Whoever commits the crime of cyberstalking shall be fined not more than two thousand dollars, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
This is a very serious penalty for an action that has no victim (in the physical sense). Does Louisiana have other similar penalties for other criminal acts? How does this compare to normally threatening another person? That would be Simple Assault in Louisiana, and that law can be found at Louisiana Revised Statute 14:38. The penalty for Simple Assault is as follows:
Whoever commits a simple assault shall be fined not more than two hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than ninety days, or both.
What if you threaten another person in Louisiana with a weapon? In Louisiana, that is Aggravated Assault and it is found at Louisiana Revised Statute 14:37. The penalty for aggravated assault is as follows:
Whoever commits an aggravated assault shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.
So wait, actually threatening another in person in Louisiana with a dangerous weapon is seen as being less severe than threatening a person over the internet? That makes no sense.
What if you actually hit another person in Louisiana? That’s Battery. Simple Battery in Louisiana is found at Louisiana Revised Statute 14:35. The penalty for actually hitting another person in Louisiana (or Simple Battery) is:
Whoever commits a simple battery shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.
So the difference in penalties in Louisiana for threatening to punch a person over the internet and actually punching a person is…the person who actually punches another is facing half the fine and jail time. This is why cyberstalking is one of the stupid criminal laws of Louisiana. It shows that Louisiana really doesn’t understand the behavior that it is attempting to regulate, and the absurd results are clearly shown in this blog entry.