With widespread access to the internet in schools, homes, libraries and a variety of public areas, children and teenagers have taken to bullying their peers through cyberspace. Cyberbullying involves one minor using the internet or another form of electronic communication to threaten, harass, humiliate or torment another.
Cyberbullying has gained much media attention in recent years with such tragic cases as the deaths of Phoebe Prince, Tyler Clementi, Megan Meier, Seth Walsh, Ryan Halligan and other teenagers who were driven to suicide. These stories shed new light on the severe psychological damage cyberbullying can have on an adolescent and legislators have taken actions in an effort to prevent such occurrences.
Some common forms of cyberbullying include:
Many children and parents alike believe that bullying is a normal part of growing up and do not take such actions seriously. It is important to understand, however, that cyberbullying can lead to criminal charges in some situations. In the state of California, under Penal Code §528.5, it is a crime to knowingly impersonate another person on the internet without their consent in order to intimidate, threaten, harm, or defraud.
Similarly, Penal Code §653.2(a) makes it a misdemeanor to intentionally place a victim in fear for their safety through the use of electronic communication which causes the victim to be subjected to unwanted physical contact, harassment, or injury, as well as to spread or share personal information about them. A conviction for these crimes can result in imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1000.
Cyberbullying can also lead to charges for such crimes as:
The many stories of students who took their own lives as a result of online bullying have caused law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to be overzealous in their treatment of minors who taunted peers online. The public nature of these cases often leads District Attorneys to charge children with criminal offenses for picking on a classmate, which is why you must be sure your child’s rights and interests are protected if they have been accused of cyberbullying.
Our team at Okabe & Haushalter has defended countless clients against charges of internet crimes and we are prepared to fight for your family. You need a determined attorney who will provide you with a powerful voice before the court and the aggressive advocacy needed to challenge these unfounded charges. Choose a criminal defense team that will fight for your child; call our firm today!