FACT OR FICTION: Doxing Someone Can Get You Arrested.

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Apr 01, 2024 | Criminal Defense
FACT OR FICTION: Doxing Someone Can Get You Arrested.

Is doxing illegal? In California, doxing is considered a serious offense, and individuals engaging in this activity can face legal consequences. The state has laws that prohibit the unauthorized dissemination of personal information with the intent to harass, intimidate, or harm others. Violating these laws can result in criminal charges, including stalking, harassment, identity theft, and more.

What is Doxing?

Doxing is a malicious practice prevalent in today’s digital age. It involves the unauthorized disclosure of private information or personal details about individuals or organizations. This nefarious act, often carried out with harmful intentions, can have severe repercussions on the victims, ranging from privacy invasion to physical harm.

Many people may not be familiar with the word “doxing.” However, they are familiar with cyberstalking. Cyberstalking may involve doxing. Both “doxing” and “doxxing” are commonly used spellings, and they refer to the same practice of publicly revealing private or personal information about an individual or organization without their consent. The difference lies primarily in spelling conventions and personal preference.

Doxing is using the internet to gather your personally identifiable information (PII). Examples of sensitive personal details include, but are not limited to:

  • Full name
  • Social security number
  • Contact information, including street address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.
  • Workplace details
  • Financial data 
  • Family members

The party publishes the information online for malicious purposes. Companies and government entities could be victims of doxing when individuals or groups steal and publish their sensitive information. 

Many internet sources contain sensitive and personal information. For example, a party may search a person’s social media accounts for posts, comments, and tags. In addition, they may “friend” a person to get information. Many types of online accounts are vulnerable to doxing.

Other sources of personal information include, but are not limited to:

  • Voter registration roles
  • Court and property records
  • Public conferences
  • Obituaries 
  • Wedding and engagement announcements
  • Newsletters
  • Unprotected networks
  • Blogs and discussion boards
  • Web forums

Your personal information may appear on numerous sites you might not even consider. Any website you use could be a resource for doxxers (people who publish personal information online). Doxxers may publish information online for profit, or they may seek revenge against the person they are stalking.

What is Considered Malicious Online Activity in California?

Malicious activity or doxing may take many forms. It includes, but might not be limited to:

Most of the comments we publish online are protected by the First Amendment, even when those comments are mean-spirited or intended to hurt someone’s feelings. A lot of doxxing cases may solely focus on the unauthorized disclosure of personal information without explicit threats of harm. However, you can face criminal penalties if there is evidence you intended to cause harm to the victim.

For example, death threats can be a part of doxing, especially in cases where the perpetrator intends to harass, intimidate, or harm the victim. In some instances, individuals who engage in doxing may escalate their behavior by issuing threats of violence or harm, either directly or indirectly.

Nevertheless, even without explicit threats, the act of doxing can have serious consequences for the victim’s safety, privacy, and well-being.

California’s Laws Against Doxing

Cyberstalking is a direct form of cyber harassment. It is a direct action against a person. Doxing is an indirect form of harassment. California prosecutes doxing under its electronic cyber-harassment statute (Penal Code §653.2). 

Cyber harassment refers to harassment that takes place online. Indirect cyber harassment might involve publishing personally identifiable information on a webpage or posting links to pages that contain the information. The person may e-mail the sensitive information to another party or distribute the information through any electronic device.

The state must prove the following requirements for you to be guilty of doxing:

  • You shared another individual’s personal information without their consent
  • You intended to cause that person to reasonably fear for their or their family’s safety
  • The purpose was to cause the person unwanted injury, physical contact, or harassment
  • You knew the information shared would likely result in harassment, injury, or physical contact

Harassment is defined as terrorizing or tormenting someone, but it can also mean alarming or annoying them. 

For example, you post a person’s address and make a statement about teaching that person a lesson about advocating for a specific cause. Your intent might be for that person to be harassed or physically harmed. The act of putting the person’s home address in the post can be evidence of your intent for harm or injury to come to that person.

However, the law does not require the person to actually be harassed or harmed. Instead, the law centers on the defendant’s “intent” when posting the information.

Penalties for Doxing in California

Individuals arrested and charged with cyber harassment (doxing) under Penal Code §653.2 face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The charge is a misdemeanor charge. A criminal defense lawyer may negotiate a plea agreement for probation instead of jail time. 

When the court grants probation, it might include several restrictions. For example, the court might instruct the defendant not to contact the victim or post anything online about or directed to the victim. Violating probation could result in harsh penalties and jail time.

Potential Defenses to Doxing Charges in California

criminal defense attorney reviews the circumstances and facts surrounding the doxing charges. Then, the lawyer develops a defense strategy for beating doxing charges based on those facts. 

Potential defenses to doxing in California include:

  • Lack of evidence that you were the party who posted the information 
  • You had the person’s consent to share the personal or sensitive information 
  • Lack of intent to subject someone to harassment or injury
  • Violations of your civil rights that result in evidence being inadmissible in court

If the police arrest you for doxing, the best thing you can do is remain silent. Trying to explain your actions could result in incriminating yourself. You are not required to answer questions after being arrested without an attorney present.

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Contact the Los Angeles Criminal Defense Law Firm of The Rodriguez Law Group Today For Help

If you’re facing charges related to doxing, it’s crucial to seek legal assistance immediately. At Rodriguez Law Group, we understand the complexities of cyber-related crimes and can provide you with expert legal representation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us help you navigate the legal process and defend your rights.

For more information please contact the Los Angeles Criminal Defense law firm of The Rodriguez Law Group for a free consultation, give us a call at (213) 995-6767 or visit our convenient location:

The Rodriguez Law Group – Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
626 Wilshire Blvd Suite 460, Los Angeles, CA 90017, United States