Do I Need a Lawyer for Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying commonly occurs among middle school and high school students. It includes the use of information technology such as computers, cell phones or social media websites to threaten, harass, annoy or humiliate another person. If you are charged with a cyber bullying crime, you will need a lawyer to defend you.
Examples of Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying does not have to be a threat of physical violence, but can be a verbal electronic posting or the transmission of an image that depicts or alleges that the victim committed certain humiliating acts. Exposing extremely personal or confidential information online or through texting that the victim did not want to reveal also constitutes cyber bullying. Examples of cyber bullying include:
- Posting embarrassing or offensive videos of someone
- Threatening someone by email or texting
- Hacking into someone’s social media site, and posting derogatory or embarrassing messages
- Transmitting offensive, personal or confidential information about someone online or by cell phone
A person who commits an act of bullying by use of an electronic device can be charged with the specific crime of cyber bullying in some states or with more general offenses including:
- Civil rights violations
- Criminal harassment
- Terroristic threats
- Domestic violence (Internet stalking)
A victim of cyber bullying can pursue civil remedies such as a suit for defamation, invasion of privacy, or intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. In these circumstances, a civil lawyer experienced in defamation defense, personal injury actions or First Amendment cases would be essential for the accused.
Is Cyber Bullying a Crime?
There is considerable debate in the legal arena as to whether cyber bullying is a specific crime and, as such, whether it should be codified. Some states have made certain instances of cyber bullying a crime, but there is always the potential for conflict with First Amendment rights that arises with legislation that restricts free speech, especially if the law’s language is vague or open to multiple interpretations. If the harassing behavior leads the targeted victim to commit suicide, suffer libel, endure extreme emotional distress or lose employment, the offender’s behavior is more likely to be considered criminal.
Most cyber bullying incidents among school-age children are handled internally by school districts; most schools have implemented policies against this type of behavior. If the district suspends or expels a student, an attorney experienced in cyber bullying cases or school regulations can challenge the action, especially if the conduct may have occurred outside any sponsorship or association with the school.
An offender under 18 may be charged in juvenile court if the cyber bullying is pervasive or severe. Possible penalties include deferred judgment, probation or mandatory participation in a program for juvenile offenders. For offenders over 18, many states with cyber bullying laws treat the offense as a misdemeanor. Some states make it a crime to pose as a minor online and to post personal or offensive comments about a minor online.
With more states considering implementing cyber bullying laws, those accused of such behavior should retain a lawyer who has knowledge of Internet law, First Amendment rights and criminal law principles. Learn more about real internet law lawsuits on Lawyers.com.