Cyberstalking: Illinois


Cyberstalking and Other Internet Crimes: Illinois
by Susan Basko

Cyberstalking and harassment are prohibited by Federal Crime statutes, but most states also have laws.  This is about the Illinois laws.  Illinois criminal laws will apply if the victim is in Illinois, or if the perpetrator is in Illinois, and may apply in other circumstances.   This is not a complete listing, at all. It simply lists some common transgressions made by cyberstalkers and internet harassers.

Good Illinois Protection:  If you are in Illinois and anyone posts your name or photo on a creepy website, you are in luck -- there is a criminal law against this.   If you are in Illinois, and anyone secretly records a phone call with you, they are committing a crime.  If you are in Illinois, and anyone is repeatedly contacting you on the internet to cause you distress, there is a criminal law to protect you.

If you are victim, go to the links here and make a copy of the law.  When you go to make your police report, politely hand the officer a copy of the laws.  Internet crime is new territory to many police and prosecutors.  Persist.  Internet stalkers and bad websites tend to harm many people, so you will be helping many others, as well as yourself.

RECORDING A PHONE CALL: It is illegal to record phone call without the consent of all parties.  Example:  I am in Illinois.  If you call me and record the call without my permission, you are violating the Illinois Eavesdropping Act.  The first offense is a Class 4 Felony.  The second or further offense is a Class 3 felony.  If you were to place such a recording online, or transcribe it, or otherwise make it available, each time you do, it is an additional felony count.

RECORDING AN IN-PERSON CONVERSATION:  It is illegal in Illinois to record any conversation without permission of all parties. This includes using a video camera or cellphone camera to record a conversation.  This also violates the Illinois Eavesdropping Act and is a felony.

MAKING OR POSTING OBSCENE PICTURES:  If you use someone's photo to create an obscene picture or video, this is a violation of the Illinois Obscenity Act and is  a Class A Misdemeanor or a Felony.  If you put such a picture or video online, you are distributing obscenity and distributing obscenity to minors.  These are very serious crimes under the Illinois Obscenity Act that can land you on the Sex Offender registry.  Illinois has a very broad and conservative definition of "obscenity."

REVENGE PORN, POSTING NAME OR CONTACT INFO OR PHOTO ONTO A WEBSITE THAT CONTAINS ANY OBSCENITY:  If a person posts an image of a person, or posts any identifying information, such as name, address, telephone number, or email address,  about any person on a pornographic site, without the person's permission, that perpetrator is guilty of a felony under 720 ILCS 5/11-23.  If the victim is under 17, he or she cannot give permission and the act is a felony.  A site is considered pornographic if it contains any obscene material as defined under Illinois law, which is very broad and conservative.  These crimes can land a person in prison and on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry.  Also, see the Cyberstalking Law below - creating a website that harasses another person is against the Illinois Cyberstalking law.

So what does this mean? It means that if anyone posts your name or other information or any photo of you on a site that contains any obscene photos, the person is committing a Class 3 or Class 4 felony.  Even if the site is held offshore, and even if the person is in a different location, if you are in or from Illinois, you can and should report this crime.

Example 1: Suppose a site is used by a group to make fun of people they don't like.  Suppose the site has photos on it that show such things that are obscene, such as photos of an anus or of sexual parts.  Anyone that posts any other person's name, contact information or photo on that site without permission has committed a felony. If the victim is under 17, there is no permission possible.  Depending on the situation, this crime may also fall under Cyberstalking, Child pornography, creating obscene materials, distributing obscene material to minors, etc.  MOST LIKELY, the person running or owning the site is also committing a violating of the Illinois Cyberstalking law (below) provision against maintaining a website that harasses any person.

Example 2:  Someone posts your name and writes about you on a website that contains graphic photos and you are under 17 or you are older than 17 and did not give your permission. This is a felony.  If the person is convicted, they can be sentenced to prison and be forced to register on the Sex Offender registry.

Example 3: Someone posts a photo of you on a website that contains graphic photos. This is a felony if you are under 17 or if you are over 17 and did not give permission.  If the person is convicted, they can be sentenced to prison and forced to register on the Sex Offender registry.

CYBERSTALKING: Cyberstalking is when on 2 or more occasions, a person makes unwanted communication to or about another person online, on their own or through a third party, in a way that they know or should know places the victim in fear for their safety or the safety of someone else, or that causes the victim distress.  If the victim is in Illinois, or if the perpetrator is in Illinois, the crime falls under the Illinois law.

Examples 1 - 6: Posting 2 or more taunts at a person via Twitter or Facebook, sending taunting or threatening emails, sending 2 or more @ tweets at a person who has you blocked, posting 2 or more nasty comments at or about a person, posting 2 or more nasty photos or videos of or about a person, having any third party doing any of this for you.

Example 7: Posting 2 or more threatening tweets, messages, or comments saying such things as that you will post a person's name or photo on an undesirable website.

Example 8: Creating a website that harasses another person.

ILLINOIS CYBERSTALKING LAW OF 2010: 
You can download a handout on the Illinois Stalking and Cyberstalking laws, prepared by the research staff of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan HERE.

 (720 ILCS 5/12-7.5) 
    Sec. 12-7.5. Cyberstalking. 

    (a) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she engages in a course of conduct using electronic communication directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that would cause a reasonable person to:
        (1) fear for his or her safety or the safety of a
    
third person; or
        (2) suffer other emotional distress.
    (a-3) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, on at least 2 separate occasions, harasses another person through the use of electronic communication and: 
        (1) at any time transmits a threat of immediate or
    
future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint and the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person; or
        (2) places that person or a family member of that
    
person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; or
        (3) at any time knowingly solicits the commission of
    
an act by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
    (a-5) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, creates and maintains an Internet website or webpage which is accessible to one or more third parties for a period of at least 24 hours, and which contains statements harassing another person and:
        (1) which communicates a threat of immediate or
    
future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, where the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person, or
        (2) which places that person or a family member of
    
that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint, or
        (3) which knowingly solicits the commission of an act
    
by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person.
    (b) Sentence. Cyberstalking is a Class 4 felony; a second or subsequent conviction is a Class 3 felony. 
    (c) For purposes of this Section:
        (1) "Course of conduct" means 2 or more acts,
    
including but not limited to acts in which a defendant directly, indirectly, or through third parties, by any action, method, device, or means follows, monitors, observes, surveils, threatens, or communicates to or about, a person, engages in other non-consensual contact, or interferes with or damages a person's property or pet. The incarceration in a penal institution of a person who commits the course of conduct is not a bar to prosecution under this Section.
        (2) "Electronic communication" means any transfer of
    
signs, signals, writings, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectric, or photo-optical system. "Electronic communication" includes transmissions through an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager, which communication includes, but is not limited to, e-mail, instant message, text message, or voice mail.
        (3) "Emotional distress" means significant mental
    
suffering, anxiety or alarm.
        (4) "Harass" means to engage in a knowing and willful
    
course of conduct directed at a specific person that alarms, torments, or terrorizes that person.
        (5) "Non-consensual contact" means any contact with
    
the victim that is initiated or continued without the victim's consent, including but not limited to being in the physical presence of the victim; appearing within the sight of the victim; approaching or confronting the victim in a public place or on private property; appearing at the workplace or residence of the victim; entering onto or remaining on property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim; or placing an object on, or delivering an object to, property owned, leased, or occupied by the victim.
        (6) "Reasonable person" means a person in the
    
victim's circumstances, with the victim's knowledge of the defendant and the defendant's prior acts.
        (7) "Third party" means any person other than the
    
person violating these provisions and the person or persons towards whom the violator's actions are directed.
    (d) Telecommunications carriers, commercial mobile service providers, and providers of information services, including, but not limited to, Internet service providers and hosting service providers, are not liable under this Section, except for willful and wanton misconduct, by virtue of the transmission, storage, or caching of electronic communications or messages of others or by virtue of the provision of other related telecommunications, commercial mobile services, or information services used by others in violation of this Section. 
    (e) A defendant who directed the actions of a third party to violate this Section, under the principles of accountability set forth in Article 5 of this Code, is guilty of violating this Section as if the same had been personally done by the defendant, without regard to the mental state of the third party acting at the direction of the defendant. 
(Source: P.A. 96-328, eff. 8-11-09; 96-686, eff. 1-1-10; 96-1000, eff. 7-2-10; 96-1551, eff. 7-1-11; 97-303, eff. 8-11-11; 97-311, eff. 8-11-11; 97-1109, eff. 1-1-13.)