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Kevin O'Flaherty

Cyberstalking has become an increasingly prevalent issue over the last few years with the rise of the internet and electronic communication. Iowa has regulations in place specifically targets at protecting and penalizing cyberstalking. In this article we will explore key provisions of Iowa’s cyberstalking laws including what harassment laws are in Iowa, examples of cyberstalking, penalties for cyberstalking, how to report cyberstalking, and protective orders in Iowa. By understanding the legislation and penalties of cyberstalking, Iowa residents can better protect themselves as well as loved ones from the harmful effects of cyberstalking.  

Iowa Harassment Laws  

Section 708.7 of Iowa law defines harassment as the “intent to intimidate, annoy, or alarm another person”. This can include the following:  

  • Communicating via telephone, writing, or electronic communication without legitimate purpose and in a way that is likely to cause the other person annoyance or harm  
  • Ordering packages or services in someone else’s name to be delivered to another without the other person’s knowledge or consent  
  • Knowingly reporting false information to the authorities implicating another person in criminal activity  
  • Distributing or publishing a photograph or video showing another person partially or fully nude or engaged in a sex act without their consent  


Examples of Cyberstalking  

Examples of Cyberstalking may include:  

  • Repeatedly calling, texting, or messaging you  
  • Sending you unwanted gifts or letter  
  • Monitoring your phone calls or internet usage  
  • Threaten you via text, phone, or internet message  
  • Finding out about your public records using online services or contacting friends, family, or neighbors.  

To learn more about cyberstalking in Wisconsin read our article, Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying Laws in Wisconsin.  

What Are the Penalties for Stalking?  

The first offense of stalking is an aggravated misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine of $500 to $5,000. Stalking with a violation of a no-contact order, stalking with a dangerous weapon, or stalking a minor is considered a Class D Felony, which is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $7,500. A third offense or higher is considered a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.  


Providing Evidence of Cyberstalking  

It may be challenging to prove you are a victim of cyberstalking in Iowa without the proper evidence. While it may be tempting to delete messages, photos, communications, and posts that the cyberstalker has sent you, it may make things more complicated for your court case. By documenting the communications, you create a better chance of refuting any counterclaims made by the defendant.  


When documenting evidence in your cyberstalking case, it is also crucial to create an accurate timeline of these communications, threats, or harassment. Having screenshots that provide the date, time, and message will be helpful when creating a timeline of the stalking.  


Lastly, you may want to consider setting your online accounts to private. An effective way to prove that someone is cyberstalking you is by showing that your personal information and photos are not easily accessible to the general public.  


What Constitutes Stalking in Iowa?  

Under Iowa law 708.11, stalking is defined as repeated visual or physical proximity to a person without legitimate reason that would cause a reasonable person to feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened or to fear that the person intends to cause bodily injury to, or the death of, that specific person or a member of the specific person’s immediate family.” The definition extends to include using technological devices to locate, listen or watch a person without legitimate purpose or repeatedly conveying verbal or written threats that cause the person fear. The word “repeatedly” in this definition refers to two or more occasions.  Fo more information on Illinois cyberstalking law read our article,  Illinois Cyberstalking Explained.  



woman in white shirt scrolling on iphone

Is Cyberstalking a Federal Crime?  

Yes, cyberstalking is a federal crime. Iowa has state laws that prohibit cyberstalking within state borders. If communication crosses state lines, the offense becomes a federal crime. 18 U.S. Code § 2261A is the federal law that applies to cyberstalking matters which contains verbiage that prohibits stalking when it occurs through electronic communication.  

Cyberstalking Behaviors Explained  

Stalking and cyberstalking are tactics used to intimidate, control, or influence a victim. The internet can provide a cloak of anonymity that may make perpetrators feel as if they can get away with the crime they are committing.  


There are many behaviors in which cyberstalkers may engage in to stalk their victims, such as,  


  • using social media, search engines, and other online forums to find their victims  
  • Repeatedly messaging targets  
  • Post defamatory or derogatory statements about their targets online to get a reaction or initiate contact  
  • Create fake pages with the victim’s name containing defamatory or pornographic content  
  • Tracing the victim’s IP address in an attempt to verify their home address or place of employment.  


How to Report Cyberstalking  

If you are in immediate danger from cyberstalking, call the authorities and report any threats of violence, harassment, or stalking to local law enforcement. After reporting the cyberstalking to law enforcement, it is essential to stop contact with the stalker and block the person from your phone or social media after documenting and recording the date, times, and messages sent. Also, report the behavior to the website or online platform where the stalking may have occurred.  


Protective Orders for Cyberstalking in Iowa  

If you are a victim of Cyberstalking, you may want to consider initiating a no-contact order or a protective order on your behalf. A victim in a criminal case can obtain a no-contact order against the defendant. A victim of assault or harassment may be able to get a protective order.  


The protective order can be filed in the district court where you live in Iowa. Protective orders protect the victim from abuse, harassment, or contact with another person for a period of time.  


There are three different types of protective orders in Iowa with varying lengths of coverage. An emergency order may be filed if the courts are closed and last 72 hours. Temporary orders are similar to emergency orders but can last 5 to 15 days until you can file a permanent order. A permanent order can only be issued after a court hearing and can last up to one year.  


Preventing Online Abuse  


One can take many steps to prevent online abuse before it escalates to cyberstalking. Start with privacy settings, consider whether your profile should be public, and consider who you allow to like, comment, and view your personal posts. If unwanted comments or messages occur, do not hesitate to block the perpetrator and delete comments after documenting them with screenshots. Make sure to take a moment to think about the content of your posts before hitting that post button. Does the post contain personal information such as addresses, phone number, place of employment, or financial information?  


Some other protective measures can be using a VPN to secure internet connection and protect users’ anonymity or securing passwords. Avoid using the same password across numerous websites and enable two-factor authentication when possible.  

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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