Telecommunications and Cell Phone Crimes

iPhone on a wooden table

In today’s world our cell phones are the most important, complex item we carry around with us all day. However, they can also be one of the most dangerous to your freedom. Police charge people with cell phone and internet crimes more commonly today than ever before. These charges generally begin by falling under the category of telecommunications crimes, but they can quickly turn into other much more serious charges that carry hefty sentences. It’s important to know your rights regarding your cell phone and the information it contains.

Charges for phone crimes are more common than many others, especially, but not only among teens and young adults. Social media, spoofing, text messaging, and file sharing applications make it easy for people to knowingly or unknowingly get caught up in investigations by police both in-state and across state, county and national lines in a matter of seconds. Can I go to jail for committing a crime on my cell phone by accident? Yes. Can I report someone using their cell phone to commit a crime.? Yes. Do I have to give a police officer my cell phone passcode? NO!

Crimes with cell phones can often be tied to menacing, harassment, domestic violence, sex crimes, pornography, and child pornography cases. If you are suspected of any of these crimes, your phone can be confiscated. However, since your cell phone contains so much other personal information and most likely only some of that is relevant to their case, you do not have to give police full, unrestricted access by telling them your passcode. The how, why, and when of the seizure of your phone can often be mitigated by a skilled criminal defense attorney if consulted early enough. Many times police will attempt to collect the cell phone of someone suspected to be involved in any kind of crime because we use cell phones for almost everything we do. Cell phones can contain just the evidence law enforcement needs to make their case against you. Most often, suspects of a cell phones crime will be charged by police with Telecommunications Harassment…to start.

ORC Section 2917.21 Telecommunications Harassment: No person shall knowingly make…or permit a communication to 1) harass, intimidate, or abuse…2) suggest, request, or propose the recipient or any other person engage in sexual activity [if requested not to]…3) cause damage to public of private property, person, or recipient’s family, etc…4)make a comment…that is threatening, intimidating, menacing, coercive, or obscene with the intent to abuse, threaten, or harass the recipient…5) violate ORC section 2903.21….

Violations of the Telecommunication ORC can result in criminal charges that range from a first degree misdemeanor to a felony of the fifth degree for each further offense. Certain violations can result in felony charges of the third or fourth degree depending on the specifics of the case. Other charges that can result from initial telecommunications violations can include menacing (a fourth degree misdemeanor), aggravated menacing (a first degree misdemeanor), along with being charged with federal crimes when the text message, pictures, or files have been sent across state lines.

If you have sent or received a message that is reported as a threat or as intimidation, the police will launch an investigation including a search warrant for your phone. Once law enforcement confiscates your phone, anything potentially illegal can lead to criminal charges, even if they are not connected to the original investigation.

For example, if police seize your phone due to reported text message or social media harassment and find nude photos of or from someone else, they will charge you with producing nudity-oriented materials. Even if you never shared those photos or the photos are several years old, they will also charge you with pandering obscenities, which is a felony of the fourth degree. In this example, you will need a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in sex cases to demonstrate proof that you didn’t share the photos. If the subject is under 18 years old, asleep, or appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will face charges for nudity material of a minor or impaired person, which is a felony of the third degree for each picture, each carrying a lengthy prison sentence. No matter how old you are, you will need an experienced sex crime defense attorney to launch their own investigation to prove your innocence, the origin, nature, or your knowledge of the photos.

Remember that when you send messages, photos, or documents over the internet or a cell phone, the information Is not just on your private device. That information is automatically stored on a server somewhere. Once you are suspected of a crime that information becomes accessible to the police along with anything else that is stored on your device or server. While it may difficult to believe that the cell phone you paid for could be searched and explored by others, authorities use a variety of methods to obtain access to it. It is important to remember that you do in fact have rights, and it is critical to protect those rights in the process of being cooperative with authorities.

Whether you have been falsely accused, or clicked “send” when you were momentarily unable to think clearly and find yourself facing charges for a telecommunications crime or any other crime where someone wants to search your phone or computer, it’s important to seek the advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. Don’t do it alone – Get a warrior on your side at

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