A New York criminal defendant avoided a conviction on cyberstalking recently mainly because the New York statute was written too narrowly. The New York state legislature (and any states with similar laws) may want to take note.
The case concerned a defendant named Monique Marian. Marian apparently did not react well to a failed relationship and deluged her former girlfriend with text, e-mail and Instagram messages over the course of a four-month period. She also followed her to her home and to bars on several occasions. Marian sent the e-mail messages to her ex-girlfriend’s work e-mail address
Marian was charged with two offenses. One of them arose under a New York statute that criminalized harassing conduct at a person’s “place of employment or business.” Given Marian’s use of the work e-mail, she arguably violated this part of the New York criminal code. Or maybe not.
The court ruled the phrases “place of employment” and “place of business” have been consistently interpreted to mean actual, physical locations. In the court’s view, absent any indication to the contrary, those phrases should be interpreted consistently across all areas of law.
This may be an instance of the law not keeping pace with technology. No doubt when the law was enacted, it was a safe bet that “workplace” could only mean a physical location. Of course, with today’s technology, that’s not always a safe bet. And it’s a reminder that state legislators may want to think about whether current laws need revising to keep up with all the new-fangled technology out there.
The good news is that charges against Marian under a more general stalking statute stuck. So justice was at least partially served.