“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 consultation today.