In today's digital age, social media platforms allow you to create
profiles to share thoughts and photos about your life. When making a new
account for yourself, you can input your real name; however, if you want
to keep your information somewhat private and not allow people who know
your name to find you online, you might enter a different name. But is
doing such a crime? That depends on why you created the account and what
you do with it.
In California, there is a law that specifically prohibits a person from
using another individual's name to create a social media profile.
That statute is referred to as false personation, and it states that it's
illegal to knowingly impersonate someone else on the Internet or through
other electronic means without that individual's consent. Establishing
the identity of the other person must have been credible for the conduct
to be a crime. What that means is if someone else saw the account, they
must have reasonably believed that the person who created it was the individual
they were impersonating.
When a person opens an online account in someone else's name, for their
actions to be considered illegal, they must have created the profile to
do any of the following to the other person:
- Harm them,
- Intimidate them,
- Threaten them, or
- Defraud them
Let's say you already had an online profile, but you wanted to create
a second one to post just your travel pictures. You want this account
to seem entirely separate from your other one, so you establish it with
someone else's name. The purpose of this new account isn't to
cause anyone harm; therefore, your actions would not be a violation of
California Penal Code 528.5.
However, suppose you were in a relationship with someone, and you shared
intimate photos with each other. Let's say your significant other
recently broke up with you. You're upset and hurting, and you want
that person to feel as much sadness as you are. You create a social media
account with their name and post some of the pictures they had shared with you.
In that scenario, setting up an online profile would be illegal because you:
- Knowingly impersonated someone else,
- Did so without their consent, and
- With the purpose of causing them harm
If you are convicted for this
misdemeanor offense, you could be fined $1,000 and/or sentenced to jail for up to 1 year.
California's Revenge Porn Laws
In the hypothetical situation mentioned earlier, where you created an online
profiled with your ex's name, you could also be charged under California
Penal Code 647, also known as the "revenge porn" law. This statute makes it illegal to distribute explicit images
or videos of other people online and can be charged as a misdemeanor that
carries a prison sentence of up to 1 year.
If you've been charged with a crime in Santa Barbara, reach out to
Appel & Morse today for the dedicated and aggressive defense you need.
Call us at (805) 467-6060 or
contact us online.