People have been impersonating other people for reasons such as personal gain and revenge since the dawn of time. In the internet age, impersonation is accomplished more easily than it has ever been before. Because internet impersonation can have devastating consequences, Texas statute prohibits online impersonation in two different ways. One portion of the statute covers web pages on both commercial networking sites and other websites, and the other section deals with email and message boards. Either one is a misdemeanor offense.

Impersonating Another on a Social Networking Site or Other Website

Impersonating another on social media is prohibited by law if all the following elements are met:

  • The person does not have the consent of the person they are impersonating;
  • The intent of the person is to cause harm, or defraud, or threaten, or intimidate another;
  • The person uses the other’s name or persona; and either
    • The person creates a web page on a networking site or other website; or
    • The person posts or sends messages using the site (other than through email or message boards).

Impersonating Another through Email

Email is another type of internet communication that may be used to impersonate another. Similar to impersonating another on a social networking site, several elements must be met for the state to prove online impersonation via email or messaging board, as follows:

  • The person sends either an email, an instant message, a text message or other, similar message which includes references to the name, domain address, phone number or other information which identifies one other than the sender;
  • The person doesn’t have consent to make this representation;
  • The purpose of using the other person’s name is to cause the recipient of the information to believe the other person either sent the message themselves or authorized another to do so; and
  • The intent of the message is to harm or defraud anyone, including both the recipient, the named person, or another human being.

What is the punishment for Online Impersonation?

Impersonating someone via social networking or other websites is a felony in the third degree, punishable by up to a $10,000 fine, up to 10 years in prison, or both, with a minimum punishment of two years in prison. Impersonating someone through email is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a jail sentence of up to one year, a fine of up to $4,000, or both. Reference Penal Code Section 33.07 for more information.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

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