FACT OR FICTION: Doxing Someone Can Get You Arrested.
Many people may not be familiar with the word “doxing.” However, they are familiar with cyberstalking. Cyberstalking may involve doxing.
- Full name
- Social security number
- Contact information, including street address, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc.
- Workplace details
- Financial information
- 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 social media sites for posts, comments, and tags. In addition, they may “friend” a person to get information.
Other sources of personal information include, but are not limited to:
- Voter registration roles
- Court and property records
- Public conferences
- Wedding and engagement announcements
- 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 doxers (people who publish personal information online). Doxers 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. However, you can face criminal penalties if there is evidence you intended to cause harm to the victim.
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
A 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.
Last Updated on March 19, 2022