A new California law that just went into effect on January 1st of this year now makes it a crime to impersonate someone through the internet. If you were thinking about opening an e-mail account, facebook, twitter or some other form of social networking account under another person's name, you should be aware that under California law you will now be committing a crime. The law reads as follows:
Cal Pen Code § 528.5: Impersonation through Internet Web site or by other electronic means proscribed; Punishment
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).
(b) For purposes of this section, an impersonation is credible if another person would reasonably believe, or did reasonably believe, that the defendant was or is the person who was impersonated.
(c) For purposes of this section, "electronic means" shall include opening an e-mail account or an account or profile on a social networking Internet Web site in another person's name.
(d) A violation of subdivision (a) is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(e) In addition to any other civil remedy available, a person who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of subdivision (a) may bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief pursuant to paragraphs (1), (2), (4), and (5) of subdivision (e) and subdivision (g) of Section 502.
(f) This section shall not preclude prosecution under any other law.
Should you have any questions about this, or other types of electronic criminal conduct, please contact Michael Berg, a San Diego Federal Lawyer.