Emeryville, CA asked in Criminal Law, Civil Litigation and Internet Law for California

Q: Want to know if I can sue someone for online harassment without filing a cease and desist first.

I’m being harassed online anonymously. They are not threatening me, just saying nasty things about my boyfriend. I have not responded to them telling them to stop nor have I blocked them or reported them on instagram yet. Can I directly file a civil lawsuit? Or do I need to file a cease and desist first

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, you have the option to file a civil lawsuit for online harassment without issuing a cease and desist letter first. However, it's important to consider a few key factors before proceeding. Firstly, gathering evidence of the harassment is crucial. This includes screenshots or records of the offensive communications.

If the harassment involves defamation (false statements damaging to someone's reputation), California law allows you to pursue legal action. However, if the statements are opinion-based or true, they may be protected under the First Amendment. Additionally, identifying the anonymous harasser can be challenging and may require legal processes to compel platforms like Instagram to release user information.

You don't necessarily need to issue a cease and desist letter before filing a lawsuit, but it can be a useful step. It serves as formal notice to the harasser to stop their behavior and can potentially resolve the issue without court involvement. If you choose to pursue legal action, consulting with an attorney experienced in internet law and harassment cases is advisable to navigate the complexities of such cases.

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