These days, dating someone you've met on the internet is just as common as meeting someone at work, at school, or via friends. It's no big deal. But with internet dating also come some modern pitfalls. It's important to understand internet dating etiquette and how actions can sometimes be misinterpreted. After communicating with someone online or having a few dates, you may want to know more about someone. But investigating too closely or engaging in some repetitive behaviors may be considered threatening by a potential love interest.
A potential problem arising from the overzealous pursuit of an online dating partner is harassment, particularly online. Under Texas law, harassment can happen if you:
- Make an obscene comment or request after initiating communication,
- Intentionally alarm someone by telling them that someone died or was seriously injured when it's not true,
- Threatening to hurt someone or a member of their family, household, or their property,
- Call someone anonymously repeatedly in a way that is reasonably likely to annoy, harass, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend them,
- Call someone on the phone and fail to hang up or disengage the call intentionally,
- Send electronic communications that are reasonably likely to annoy, harass, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend them, or
- Allow someone else to use a phone to do any of the above.
See Tex. Pen. Code § 42.07 (2021). Harassment is typically a Class A or B misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. But other factors can lead to more serious charges. Sending an obscene request to a minor could lead to additional charges for solicitation of a minor, which is a third-degree felony. While texting a threat to someone can lead to cyberbullying charges.
In Texas, it's illegal to engage in a pattern of behavior that you know, or should know, makes someone else feel threatened or fearful. See Tex. Pen. Code § 42.072 (2013). These threats can be explicit or implied. For example, let's say you have two dates with a potential partner, and then they decide they don't want to see you again. If you continue to repeatedly show up at their house, it can be reasonable for them to be fearful or anxious about this. The stalking statute also covers the other person's family, household, or dating partners. Repeated behavior described as harassment can also be stalking. However, stalking can be a third or second-degree felony in Texas, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
If you've faced problems with internet dating, had a visit from the police, or been arrested for stalking or harassment, that doesn't mean you have to give up relationships altogether. You might consider a social skills class, therapy, or dating coach. It's also important to remember that if you're arrested, you are innocent until proven guilty, and an expert in criminal defense can help.
Hire an Expert in Texas Criminal Defense
You shouldn't try to resolve this alone if you're facing a criminal charge in Texas related to online dating. The consequences of a criminal conviction can be serious, and you need a skilled criminal defense attorney defending you. Attorney Doug Murphy is an expert in both Criminal Defense Law and DWI Defense, with Board Certifications in both areas. Doug is one of only two attorneys in Texas with Board Certifications in both these specialties. Doug was also recently voted Lawyer of the Year by the Best Lawyers in America list for 2023 Houston DWI defense published in U.S. News and World Report. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm online or call them at 713-229-8333 to schedule a consultation.