This week, I came across a number of cell phone crimes reported in the media. Unfortunately, none of them were unique. These days, every smartphone has a camera and it’s easier than ever to make an impulsive decision that could follow you for the rest of your life.
1 – The Unlawful Taking of Pictures and Video Recording
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was indicted on suspicion of sexual misconduct and blackmail after he allegedly snapped nude photos of his former mistress without her consent. A felony charge has been filed because the alleged victim indicated that the photographs were taken without her knowledge or consent and that they were then electronically transmitted. With today’s technology, this type of crime can be committed in a matter of seconds. Snapchat, Instagram, and text messaging allow individuals to take photographs and/or videos and electronically transfer them immediately.
A recent case in Saunders County, Nebraska involved a minor videotaping another minor in a restroom. The recording was then electronically transmitted. While such conduct could result in charges of creation and distribution of child pornography, it could result in charges of unlawful intrusion under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-311.08. Under the Nebraska criminal code, it is unlawful for any person to intrude upon any other person without consent in a place of solitude or seclusion. It is also unlawful to photograph, film, record, or live broadcast that intrusion regardless of whether it occurs in a public or private place. A “place of solitude” is a place where a person would intend to be in a state of undress and would have a reasonable expectation of privacy – this could be a restroom, locker room, dressing room, etc.
Under Nebraska law, unlawful intrusion is a Class I Misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail and a $1000 fine. However, if the image is distributed to another person or made public, the charge becomes a Class IIA Felony, carrying up to 20 years in prison. Furthermore, if the defendant is 19 years or older, he or she will be required to register as a sex offender under the Sex Offender Registration Act.
2 – Terroristic Threats
The media often highlights cases of cyberbullying. When cyberbullying becomes a threat, it may be charged as a felony in the state of Nebraska. Like the cases above, this is a crime that can be committed in a manner of seconds. The most common mediums for these types of threats are Facebook, Snapchat, or comments sections on online news articles.
Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-311.01, a person can be convicted of terroristic threats if he or she threatens to commit a crime of violence with:
- the intent to terrorize another;
- the intent to cause evacuation of a building or other place; or
- a reckless disregard of causing terror or evacuation.
Among other means, a terroristic threat could occur with a threat of violence to a former spouse or as a result of a heated political discussion. Regardless, anyone who makes a terroristic threat can be charged with a felony. Many times, the argument that the threat was made as free speech or as a joke is not an effective defense.
3 – Cell Phone Destruction
It is a property crime to intentionally break someone else’s cell phone. Nevertheless, this happens frequently. During domestic arguments, it is not uncommon for one partner to grab the other’s phone and intentionally smash or break it. It is against the law to both take someone else’s phone and break someone else’s phone.
In some cases it can even be a crime to destroy information stored on a phone. This is often occurs when an individual deletes information during a criminal investigation. For example, during an interstate drug stop, if a suspect is placed in a police car but begins deleting incriminating text messages, he could be charged with tampering and/or destroying evidence.
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Smartphones have provided efficiency in many areas of daily life. They have also made committing certain crimes far easier. Unfortunately, one quick impulsive act with a smartphone could result in lifetime consequences. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime committed with a cell phone, contact Berry Law’s team of attorneys today.