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There has recently been a lot of talk about what freedom of speech means online.

In one corner, you have people who believe you can and should be able to write almost anything without repercussions. In the other corner, people want to censor online posts and commentary.

In reality, opposing viewpoints should not be censored; however, civil society cannot tolerate online harassment. 

Do you know where to turn for help if someone accuses you of violating California online harassment laws?

The criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, utilize our knowledge and passion to protect our clients’ rights.

With nearly 50 years of collective experience, Kerry Armstrong and his team are ready to fight to achieve the best possible result for you.

Online Harassment Definition

Harassing a person online is a crime.

According to the California Penal Code §653.2, cyber harassment refers to posting information online about a person without that person’s consent, with the intent to place the alleged victim in fear for their safety or the safety of someone in their immediate family.

To violate the law, you must post this information for the purpose of imminently causing unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment by a third party. 

Some activities that could constitute this crime include the following;

  • Electronically distributing or publishing information that could be used to harass; 
  • Electronically sending emails, hyperlinks, or otherwise making such personal information—including a digital image of another individual—available for downloading; or 
  • Drafting an electronic message of a harassing nature about the alleged victim that could incite or produce unlawful action.

All these activities fall under the definition of online harassment. 

Is Doxxing Illegal in California?

Penal Code section 653.2 is also the California “doxxing” law. Doxxing is illegal in California if doing so rises to the level of online harassment.

Doxxing or “dropping dox” (documents) refers to publishing personal information about someone with the intent to identify them.

Posting the target’s residential address, phone number, workplace information, information about their family, social security number, or criminal history are examples of personal data a person would use “to dox” another.  

What Is the Penalty for Violating the California Online Harassment Laws?

A conviction for violating Penal Code section 653.2 is a misdemeanor. The maximum period of incarceration is one year in the county jail.

The statute also allows the assessment of a fine of up to $1,000.

As with any crime, you stand to lose more than your liberty. A conviction could lead to job loss, lost educational opportunities, or other harsh consequences.

The only way to avoid these life-altering considerations is to work with an attorney who understands what it takes to clear your name.

Can You Get a Restraining Order for Online Harassment?

Yes, California law allows harassment victims to obtain protection through a harassment restraining order.

Civil harassment restraining orders operate very much like domestic violence abuse protection orders, except that harassment orders restrain people other than a spouse, domestic partner, or close family member. 

How to Report Online Harassment

We often field questions about online harassment that our clients suffer from alleged victims or witnesses in their cases. We tell them to call 911 if they are in imminent danger.

Otherwise, they can make a report to their local police department. However, we ask you to contact us before talking to the police. 

Get the Legal Protection You Need from the Team You Trust

The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, offers our clients superior service and emotional support.

We know you deserve the highest level of advocacy, and our award-winning attorneys, led by Kerry L. Armstrong, consistently deliver the best possible results for our clients.

Contact us today for a free consultation at 619-234-2300.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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