After I filed one of several complaints about unwanted contacts from Bill Schmalfeldt while he was subject to a Peace Order, a District Court Commissioner charged Schmalfeldt with misuse of electronic communication or interactive computer service. The State’s Attorney eventually declined to prosecute the case, but while it was pending Schmalfeldt kept insisting that (a) mentioning someone on Twitter was not a form of contact. Eight years ago today, I put up this post discussing The Elements of one of the acts prohibited by Maryland Criminal Law § 3-805,
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In order to establish that a law has been violated, one must show that all of the elements of the crime have been committed. What are the elements of the Maryland crime of misuse of electronic communication or interactive computer service?
One of the acts prohibited by Maryland Criminal Law § 3-805 is (1) the use of any means of data transmission (2) via a computer or other electronic means (3) to send that data to a person (4) who receives that data (5) for the purpose of engaging in course of conduct (6) that alarms or seriously annoys another (7) with the intention to harass, alarm, or annoy the other person (8) after being told to stop and (9) without a legal purpose.
1. Does Twitter transmit data? Yes.
2. Does the transmission go via a computer or other electronic means? Yes.
3. Is the data sent to a particular person? If @useraccount is used, Yes.
4. Does the user receive the data? Yes. It arrives in his Interactions and/or Mentions pages.
5. Does a course of conduct exist? If no more than an isolated tweet is involved, probably no. If a sustained flow of tweets is involved, yes.
6. Does the data contain anything alarming or seriously annoying? If it’s petty name calling, probably no. If it’s threats to file criminal charges, probably yes.
7. Does the course of conduct demonstrate an intention to harass, alarm, or annoy? If it contains threats to file criminal charges, probably yes.
8. Was the data sent after being told to stop? A warning from the bench by a District Court judge is notice to stop. A peace order is notice to stop.
9. Was the data sent without a legal purpose? Communication or harassment in violation of a peace order is illegal.
The examination of the elements of this crime with respect to the behavior of certain persons using Twitter is left to the Gentle Reader as an exercise.
Speaking of “The Elements” …
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It has been suggested that the elemental particle of Team Kimberlin is the moron.