Impersonating Someone Online to Harm or Defraud

As someone who has practiced criminal law in the Sacramento region for nearly 20 years, I've seen the law adapt to our rapidly changing world. An example is a new California law that updates existing codes concerning impersonation of someone else for the purpose to defraud or cause to that other person. My past experience as a prosecutor allows me to devise an effective criminal defense strategy to protect my clients' rights and future prospects.

Penal Code 528.5 - Online Impersonation with Intent to Cause HarmPenal Code section 528.5 was enacted after the legislature and governor passed AB 1411 in September 2010. The intent of the law is to provide a 21st Century update to an 1872 law that outlaws impersonation.

The new law concerns the online impersonation of someone else with the intent to defraud, threaten, intimidate, or in some way harm the other person. Examples of online impersonation include using the other person's name and personal information to create an email account or an account on a social network site such as Facebook.

Examples of actions that might violate the new law include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Creating a Facebook account using someone else's name and then posting inflammatory photographs and comments that cause embarrassment to the individual being impersonated.
  • Creating an email using someone else's name and then sending offensive and derogatory emails to other people.
  • Creating a false profile on a business networking site and then posting information in an attempt to defraud the individual being impersonated.

Misdemeanor PenaltiesA violation of PC 528.5 is classified as a misdemeanor and comes with the potential for a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to a year in county jail.

Civil RemediesSignificantly, the new law also provides victims of malicious online impersonation the ability to file a civil claim against the impersonator to seek compensatory damages and other remedies.

Free and Confidential ConsultationThe frequency of internet related violations is increasing as more people access the web and new laws define what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

If you've been charged with a violation of PC 528.5, call me at (916) 442-1200 for a free and confidential consultation.