Digital Crime Defense: Cyber Bullying and Inappropriate Photos

This video features Frank Walker, a Criminal Law attorney based in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

Video Transcript:

Frank Walker:

Nothing is private once you hit send. Nothing is private once you hit send. 

Rob Rosenthal:

Can some internet or cyber crimes, bringing serious trouble? We're gonna find out right now, because that's what we're going to Ask the Lawyer on this episode. Hi again, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com, and my guest is Pennsylvania attorney Frank Walker. I wanna remind you right at the beginning, if you'd like to ask Frank some questions of your own, about your situation, you can go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button on the top that says Ask a lawyer, or you can call the phone number that you'll see on the screen during our conversation. Frank, it's always good to see you, thank you for making the time to help us out.

Frank Walker:

Always get to see you also, Rob, thank you, I appreciate you having me. 

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's talk about these internet crime, cyber crimes, that sort of thing. Have you seen a rise in these lately in the last few years of your practice? 

Frank Walker:

I have, especially during the covid pandemic, a lot of people were working from home, and you have employers who are trusting that the employees are doing what they're supposed to do while on company time working for that company, but instead they're looking at things they shouldn't be looking at. They are doing things they shouldn't be doing, whether it be financial crimes, whether it be staying home and seeking unemployment while still working another job, or whether it being trying to steal money from other people by persuading them to participate in different types of schemes and other things that are unlawful illegal and definitely against the company's best interest. We're seeing it rising in, and a lot of companies are contacting us because number one, they want to terminate this person, but also they wanna know their exposure, but then sometimes the clients and employers, a former employees, are calling our office because now they've gotten to a situation where they need to get out of. So we're definitely seeing a rise in that conduct.

Rob Rosenthal:

What about with the group? Sometimes we call the young and dumb said, the teenagers, young people... What about online bullying and that sort of thing, can that rise to the level of a criminal offense?

Frank Walker:

It can. Now again, back in our day, you had the bullying face-to-face, I mean people said something, you either dealt with it at school, preferably after school, but you dealt with it in your own time and really dealt with it in their own method, but times have changed now, it's no longer a face-to-face, sometimes you can see the person may not say a word to you in school or at the mall, or at the playground, now they're sending you images or they're sending you Facebook post or they're posting or responding to something that you posted on one of the social media networks and they're harassing you in so many times they're contacting you and it rises to the level of harassment and other people are seeing it and you're seeing it play out in real time online as you're watching the discussion boards, so you're seeing a lot from the young and dumb crowd, and they're not understanding that we have this phrase all the time that we say the internet is undefeated. There's nothing you could erase from the Internet, if you put it on there, someone's gonna find it and someone's gonna use it against you, so if you're looking at going to college or having a career outside of high school, make sure that you think before you post anything or you send something that you think is gonna be funny and maybe hurt someone's feeling for a period of time will in essence, when in reality, you're hurting them for a lifetime and you're hurting yourself for a lifetime.

Rob Rosenthal:

Speaking of sending things that they shouldn't be sending, what about inappropriate pictures of that maybe of minors under age minors, that sort of thing, can that rise to the level of a crime?

Frank Walker:

It can... And unfortunately, teenagers, they're thinking, Oh, this is my idea of flirting, or This is my idea, just sending a spicy pic to my boyfriend or to my girlfriend. Again, unfortunately, that picture is not going anywhere, and if someone else gets it, now all of a sudden you can't control what other people do with that picture, it's not going to the person you intended and staying with that person, it's traveling all over the place, and within minutes, it can be all over the world by being posted on the internet, so please be careful what you're posting, what you're sending to someone thinking it's gonna be private. Nothing is private once you hit send. Nothing is private once you hit send. 

Rob Rosenthal:

What about when somebody receives one of those images, can that also be a crime?

Frank Walker:

It can be, it can be, especially if they're showing like a pattern like you are requesting and you're receiving over and over and over again, now, if I receive something from someone is inappropriate, I don't know who it came from, I don't know what it is, I have no connection with that person. I'm immediately deleting that. Absolutely. Now, the problem comes from that when you end a relationship with someone and they're continuing to send you things over and over to over again, and you're accepting you're downloading and you're responding to them, now you are participating in that conduct and that can get you in a lot of trouble.

Rob Rosenthal:

And about the parents now, let's talk to them a little bit, Frank. If they're the parents of a teenager who's involved in some of these crimes, we were just talking about what do they do? What's your advice?

Frank Walker:

Well, I literally saw last night there's... In our area where we are right now, there are schools shutting down as a result of threats being posted on one of the social media platforms, now schools are shutting down as a result of that, but the parents, they are not checking their kids phones. Now, if you're under your parents' household, your parents have authority over to you and they should be checking the phones and those social media platforms to make sure No crimes are being committed, no bullying is taking place or inappropriate pictures are being posted. Again, there's a delicate balance between a child's privacy, right to privacy, and their fundamental rights to due process. I get that However, you as a parent have exposure and liability, if your child is bullying someone, sending inappropriate pictures, sending threats, calling in bomb threats, especially they're doing it from your home, while you're there and while you're not there, you should be able to have a conversation with your kid to make sure they understand the importance of the exposure everyone is under and everyone has, if they do something stupid as an emotional response to a fight to a disagreement, make sure they understand the exposure and maybe they'll think twice before hitting send.

Rob Rosenthal:

And that's terrific information and advice, Frank, but let's say too late, they've already... The cops have already come, they said, Hey, your child's involved in cyber bullying or sending inappropriate images, what do you recommend parents do at that point?

Frank Walker:

You know, when cops are at the door and detectives are at the door, we as human beings, we have is undeniable quench, we have an undeniable thirst to try to quench by giving up or giving up everything by just saying, Hey, this is what happened, I need to tell you what happened, I need to get this off my chest. And they wanna talk and they wanna help, and they think by being helpful in talking, they're getting themselves out of trouble and they're talking the way out of the situation. The officer, all the officers doing is either recording it with a body cam or writing in notes exactly what you're saying. My advice to you as a parent, if something like that happens and the officers or detectives are at your door, please do not give a statement, say, You know what, I would rather remain silent, I'm invoking my right to remain silent, and I'm gonna contact an attorney and my attorney and I or I will be in contact with you regarding whether or not we wanna speak with you any further, but we're not giving any your statements right now without advice of counsel. And that's my advice to you. 

Rob Rosenthal:

And then get on the phone and getting a good attorney?

Frank Walker:

Absolutely, definitely call an attorney. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, call an attorney, make sure you leave a message and make sure you don't do anything until you hear from an attorney now, I know you're watching this online somewhere, you're watching this video and maybe you're thinking, Oh, I'm in trouble, I need to call someone right now. Call them right now, and other videos will tell you what to do as and how to deal with it, how to answer the question. Don't do that, don't go about this on your own. Contact an attorney, let them do the talking and negotiating for you.

Rob Rosenthal:

This question just popped in my mind without getting too deep in the weeds, Frank. As a parent, I'm trying to put myself in that situation. I think one thing parents might go as might think is, quickly delete everything, get rid of anything that... All those emails or text messages or posts on social media, is that something I should do before they contact an attorney or wait and let the attorney give them the advice there?

Frank Walker:

Let the attorney give the advice because now you're dealing with obstruction of justice. You think about Enron and how they got in trouble by destroying evidence, you don't wanna get into that point, a lot of times there is a need or a want to say, let me delete the emails, let me delete the iCloud, Let me disconnect everything and make sure there's no evidence, so I'm protecting my kid. Wrong move, because now you're exposing yourself to a destruction of evidence, obstruction of justice, and you don't want those charges and you don't want those problems.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of really helpful information. That's always Frank, thank you so much for making some time to answer our questions. 

Frank Walker:

I appreciate it. No problem, thanks for having me. 

Rob Rosenthal:

That's gonna take care of this episode of Ask the Lawyer, my guest has been Pennsylvania attorney Frank Walker. I wanna remind you, if you'd like to ask Frank questions about your situation, go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the button at the top of the page that says Ask a Lawyer, and it'll walk you right through the very simple process right there. Thanks for watching, I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask the Lawyers.

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