Federal Injunction Against Electronic Harassment Law
Needed to Help Parents Fight Internet Predators

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Laws are partly formed for the sake of good men, in order to instruct them how they may live on friendly
terms with one another, and partly for the sake of those who refuse to be instructed, whose spirit cannot be
subdued, or softened, or hindered from plunging into evil.   - Plato
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Dr. Frank Kardasz, July 31, 2009 (revised August 5, 2009)

Cybersexting

Cybersexting is now a popular Internet activity.  It occurs when two or more users of electronic
communication devices send sexually explicit text or images to each other. Cybersexters may communicate
via cell phones, computers, IPods and/or video games that connect to the Internet. Depending upon the
circumstances, cybersexting in the U.S. is a lawful activity when both participants are consenting adults.

When the cybersexter is a predatory adult seeking to target a curious minor, the situation is a parental
nightmare.  The Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force receives many complaints from
parents and from the administrators of social networking sites involving minors receiving cybersex
communications from strangers via the Internet.

In some cases the predatory adult communication comes from someone living in a different state than the
young victim. In many cases the police investigation does not produce sufficient evidence to warrant
criminal charges. In many past cases the communications were stopped before the situation escalated into
a criminal offense. After the police step away, the parent must then find a way to prohibit any future
communication between the adult predator and the child.

One obvious solution is to revoke the child’s communication device privileges. But completely eliminating a
young persons’ communications device is not always practical. Computers, cell phones, messaging
devices and video games have become indelible fixtures in many young lives. E-mail, texting, gaming and
cell phones are part of the accepted social communication patterns and educational practices of many
modern youth. Internet social communications are incredibly important to some young people. Internet
access was so important to one Arizona boy that in 2008, when his father revoked the boy’s computer
privileges he shot and killed his dad. Parents need another tool with which they can protect children from
Internet predators.

Injunction Against Harassment - Restraining Order

Another tactic for thwarting Internet predators that is often recommended when criminal charges are not
possible is the injunction against harassment, also called a restraining order or protective order. Most
states have some form of restraining order or injunction that can help prevent a troublesome person from
contacting an innocent victim under circumstances where sufficient cause does not exist to pursue a
criminal complaint.

Example Arizona Incidents

Here are some examples of cases reported to the Arizona ICAC Task Force that involved injunctions against
harassment:

  • An Arizona parent reported that his 17 year old daughter was cybersexting on line with a 26 year old
    Utah man. The girl admitted to her father that she intended to meet the man in the future when the
    man traveled to Arizona for business and that she intended to have sex with him. A detective
    contacted the man and he refused to speak with the investigator. The investigation is continuing and
    the suspect was served in Utah with an Arizona injunction against harassment. (case 7827)

  • An Arizona parent reported unusual messages between her daughter and a 41 year old Nevada
    man using a popular social networking site. There was insufficient information to pursue criminal
    charges. The parent obtained an injunction against harassment for the Nevada man. (case 1621)

  • An Arizona parent reported that her 16 year old daughter used the Internet to chat with a 49 year old
    Virginia man. The woman requested information about how to obtain an injunction against
    harassment to help stop the communications. (case 1231)

Many more Arizona cases are listed at the end of this article.

Arizona Law

Investigators sometimes recommend that parents of cybersexting victims obtain injunctions against
harassment from an Arizona court (1).

Pursuant to the Arizona process for obtaining the injunction the parent goes to a local court and swears to
the court order. Typically the injunction orders the respondent (predator) not to have any contact with the
complainant (child victim). Once the judge approves the injunction it must then be served on the
respondent. The respondent can appear in court to dispute the order but in most Internet predator cases the
respondent does not appear and the order is validated. Once the order is validated any violation is the
misdemeanor crime of interference with judicial proceeding (2).

Local Injunctions Unenforceable Against Out-of-State Predators

The problem with the Arizona injunction, and other states are in a similar situation, is that when the
injunction is served on an out-of-state predator, the offender has little incentive to comply with the order.
Predators know that it is highly unlikely that any agency in Arizona would ever extradite a misdemeanant
offender from another state for violating an injunction against harassment.

Federal Injunction Would Have Interstate Nexus

A Federal protective order with interstate jurisdiction would resolve the problem of out-of-state violators. A
victim in one state could obtain an order and it could be served on the offender in another state. A Federal
law would overcome the problems that states have in trying to enforce injunctions across state lines.

The existing Federal stalking statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 2261A, is not sufficient for Internet cyber-
communication cases because it requires that either the victim or suspect travel across state lines and that
the victim suffer substantial emotional distress (3).

Draft Language

Below is some draft language, modifiable to incorporate with the US Code that may be useful to begin a
discussion about a Federal injunction against electronic harassment.

    U.S. Code Title 18 - Injunction Against Electronic Harassment

    A person may file a petition with the court for an injunction prohibiting electronic harassment. If the
    person is a minor, the parent, legal guardian or person who has legal custody of the minor shall file
    the petition unless the court determines otherwise. The petition shall name the parent, guardian or
    custodian as the plaintiff.

    If the court issues an injunction, the court may do any of the following:

  • Enjoin the defendant from acts of harassment via electronic communications.
  • Restrain the defendant from contacting the plaintiff via electronic communications.

References

    (1) Arizona Revised Statutes. (2009). 12-1809. Injunction against harassment; petition; venue; fees;
    notices; enforcement; definition. Retrieved July 31, 2009 from http://www.azleg.state.az.
    us/ars/12/01809.htm

    (2) Arizona Revised Statutes. (2009). 13-2810. Interfering with judicial proceedings; classification.
    Retrieved July 31, 2009 from http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ars/13/02810.htm

    (3) U.S. Code. (2009). 18 U.S.C. 2261A. Stalking. Retrieved July 31, 2009 from http://www4.law.
    cornell.edu/uscode/18/2261A.htm

Selected Arizona ICAC Incidents Involving Injunctions Against Harassment (2004-2009)

  • An Arizona parent reported unusual Internet communications between her 14 year old daughter and
    a 21 year old California man. The parent stated that the girl may have lied to the man about her age.
    The parent wanted the communications to stop. A detective recommended that the parent obtain an
    injunction against harassment. (1536)

  • An Arizona woman reported that her 16 year old sister lives in Illinois. The girl exchanged cybersex
    messages with a 23 year old Mesa Arizona man whom she met in an online game site. The woman
    wanted to make the communications stop. A detective contacted the suspect and ordered him to
    stop communicating with the girl and he agreed. The detective recommended to the woman that she
    follow-up with an injunction against harassment. (1709)

  • An Arizona parent reported that her 14 year old daughter was enticed by an 18 year old Canadian
    man who used a popular social networking site. The man stated that he wanted to marry the girl. A
    detective asked the parent to provide more evidence of illegal activity and also suggested an
    injunction against harassment. The parent never re-contacted the detective. (2115)

  • An Arizona grandmother reported that her 16 year old granddaughter was communicating with a 21
    year old California man via a popular social networking site. The girl is in the custody of a guardian
    and is on juvenile probation for prior unlawful acts. The grandmother learned that the girl plans to go
    to California to visit the suspect. The girl’s guardian was contacted, the girls Internet privileges were
    revoked and the detective suggested that the grandmother and/or guardian obtain an injunction
    against harassment. (2358)

  • An Arizona parent intercepted romantic chat conversations and web page postings to a popular
    social networking site by his 16 year old daughter. The girl communicated with an 18 year old
    California man. There was insufficient evidence to pursue an investigation and the detective
    recommended that the parent obtain an injunction against harassment for the man. (2958)

  • A popular social networking site reported sexually explicit chat between a 16 year old Louisiana girl
    and a 52 year old Arizona man. There was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against
    the man. The investigator suggested that the Louisiana victim obtain an injunction against
    harassment for the Arizona suspect. (8012)

  • A 21 year old Tucson man communicated via the Internet with a 14 year old girl from Surprise, AZ.
    There was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges. The parents obtained an injunction
    against harassment to help keep the suspect away from the girl. (1433)

  • An Arizona parent reported that her 16 year old daughter met a 19 year old Arizona man via the
    Internet. The parent intercepted sexually oriented communications between the man and the girl.
    The parent did not wish to pursue prosecution and restricted the girl’s Internet use. The parent will
    seek an injunction against harassment if the contact continues. (1695)

  • A parent from Yuma, Arizona reported that her 15 year old daughter was chatting with an 18 year old
    man and that via web cam the man exposed his genitals to her and masturbated. The parent
    reported the incident to local law enforcement authorities and criminal charges were pursued.
    Investigators also suggested that the parent follow up with an injunction against harassment. (1899)

  • A Phoenix parent reported that she intercepted Internet communications between her 17 year old
    son and a 23 year old man whom the boy met via a web site that is oriented towards homosexual
    men. The parent learned that the boy and the man spent a weekend together. The boy would not
    disclose what, if any, sexual contact occurred and criminal charges could not be proven. The parent
    wished to stop the contact between the two. Detectives suggested an injunction against
    harassment. (2071)

  • An Arizona parent intercepted communications between her 17 year old son and a 22 year old man.
    The two used a popular social networking site to communicate and also exchanged sexually explicit
    emails. When they met at a Phoenix public library the parent intervened and confronted the man. The
    17 year old deleted the sexually explicit emails and there was not sufficient evidence to pursue
    criminal charges. A detective recommended that the parent obtain an injunction against
    harassment. (2420)

  • The reporting person, a Pima Arizona case manager for disabled persons, reported that a 65 year
    old Yuma man befriended a mentally impaired 19 year old man. The two exchanged sexually
    oriented emails. The older man has made attempts to intervene in the life of the disabled man and
    contacted the victim’s mother suggesting that he be made guardian of the 19 year old. The
    investigation did not produce sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges. A detective
    recommended that an injunction against harassment be obtained prohibiting the 65 year old man
    from contacting the disabled victim. (2549)

  • An Arizona parent reported a suspicious on-line relationship between her 15 year old daughter and a
    21 year old Scottsdale man. The 21 year old was grooming the girl and discussed marriage with
    her. There was not sufficient evidence of a crime but the parent wants to end the relationship. The
    detective recommended an injunction against harassment. (2695)

  • A Phoenix school resource officer reported cyber-bullying and gang activity by students using a
    popular social networking site. Along with possible criminal charges, detectives recommended that
    the parents obtain injunctions against harassment. (2783)

  • An Arizona parent reported that someone hacked into the social networking web page of his 17 year
    old daughter and sent vulgar messages to her friends. Investigators sought criminal charges and
    also recommended an injunction against harassment. (2800)

  • An Arizona parent reported that her 17 year old daughter met an unknown older man in a popular
    Internet gaming site. The parent learned that her daughter and the man exchanged over 500
    messages including offers to marry her when she turns 18. Although there is no indication of sexual
    talk the parent wants to end the contact and has changed the family phone number and revoked the
    girls' Internet privileges. Detectives also suggested an injunction against harassment. (2813)

  • An Arizona parent reported Internet and personal contact between her 15 year old daughter and an El
    Mirage, Arizona man whom the girl met on-line. The mother intercepted e-mail communications
    indicating that the man is 19 years old. The mother also obtained the man’s phone number. She
    called the man and he admitted to knowing that the girl was 15 years old. He agreed to stop
    communicating with her. The mother then found pictures of the man’s penis on the girls’ computer
    and later caught the girl and the man together at a movie theatre. A criminal investigation was
    initiated and the detective also suggested that the mother obtain an injunction against harassment
    against the man. (2842)

  • An Arizona parent reported unusual text messages between her 15 year old daughter and a 24 year
    old married Phoenix man. The man sent suggestive messages but also stated that he could not be
    alone with the girl, saying that he might make a "mistake". A detective interviewed the man and he
    admitted knowing that what he was doing was wrong. There was insufficient evidence to prefer
    criminal charges. The investigator suggested to the parent that she obtain an injunction against
    harassment. (2862)

  • An Arizona parent phoned to report that she found "alarming" text messages on her 16 year old
    daughter’s cell phone. The messages were between the daughter and a 28 year old woman but the
    parent did not describe the messages in detail. A detective explained possible criminal violations if
    the messages were sexual in nature and also suggested an injunction against harassment. (2967)

  • An 18 year old Arizona woman reported that a 23 year old male acquaintance sent her pictures of his
    penis via email. Insufficient evidence existed to file criminal charges. The woman also reported that
    the man used a popular social networking site to communicate with her 14 year old sister but there
    was no information about criminal sexual acts. A detective suggested that the woman pursue
    criminal charges of harassment and obtain an injunction against harassment for the suspect. (3067)
Victim Impact Statement
az icac
Internet Crimes Against Children