“Catfishing” is defined as a type of activity where a person
adopts a persona and uses that identity on various social networking sites
for nefarious purposes. When most people think of catfishing, they think
of online dating, where some people will pose as attractive individuals
for various reasons. However, is it actually a crime? In some states, it is.
Oklahoma is one of the first states to pass an anti-catfishing law. The
law, titled Catfishing Liability Act of 2016, took effect in November
of last year. It allows people to get an injunction against people who
use their names, images, or voice to create a false identity on social
media to catfish other people. Other states, including Texas, are interested
in using the act to craft their own anti-catfishing laws.
Meanwhile, in Texas, some people might be able to prosecute others under
the state’s computer crime laws. There are many types of activities
that could be considered a computer crime, including the following actions:
- Using a computer to solicit a minor under the age of 17 over the internet,
through text message, or through another electronic system, to meet in
person for the purpose of engaging in sexual behavior with the accused
- Creating a web page or leaving messages on a social networking site using
the persona of another without the person’s consent and with the
intent to defraud, harm, threaten, or intimidate someone
The penalties for computer-related crimes vary depending on the nature
and seriousness of the offense. Crimes can range from Class B misdemeanors
all the way up to 1st-degree felonies. However, if a person is caught soliciting a minor, the
offense is a 3rd-degree felony unless the juvenile is under 14 years of age, which turns
the crime into a 2nd-degree felony.
Online harassment, whether it is under another identity or not, would result
in a Class A misdemeanor, which would only get the perpetrator 1 year
in county jail and / or a fine of up to $4,000.
There is no specific law regarding catfishing as a standalone crime, but
a prosecutor might attempt to pin one of several other potential offenses
on you if he or she has the evidence against you. Make sure to give yourself
the best chance of avoiding a conviction by calling one of our skilled
Houston criminal defense attorneys about your case as soon as possible.
The Law Offices of Jed Silverman is dedicated to defending the rights and freedom of our clients.
Contact us at (713) 597-2221 or fill out our online form to schedule a free case