Arizona State Representative Michelle Ugenti pre-filed a bill proposal at the end of December that aims to criminalize online impersonation. Currently, Texas, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, California and Washington all have laws against online impersonation.
If Ugenti’s bill — House Bill 2004 — passes, creating a Facebook account under another person’s name will be a class 5 felony or a class 1 misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case. In Arizona, a class 5 felony could result in a 1.5 year prison sentence. People convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor can get up to 6 months in jail.
First Amendment activists worry that the law could quell free speech. Kurt Opsah, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, explained the issue to the Arizona Republic thusly:
“The problem with this and other online impersonation bills is the potential that they could be used to go after parody or social commentary activities.”
In response to critics of the bill, Ugenti countered by explaining the bill “has a high standard. It’s the impersonation without the individual’s consent and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate and threaten.”
If you need to speak with a lawyer about an online impersonation issue, contact Kelly / Warner. We represent clients across the country.