Bullying has become high tech. Today, with smartphones, tablets, and video games, young people can be tempted to act like bullies online, and often, they do not understand what they are doing and what the consequences of their actions are. Text messaging and social media have laid the platform for anyone to say what they want publicly. As authorities learn more about bullying online, aka cyberbullying, and as more and more children report these activities, more youth are being charged. Cyberbullying laws have begun to keep up with the technology. If your child has been accused of cyberbullying, learning what it is and what it is not can be helpful in finding the right help.
When someone uses a telephone to threaten, leaves voicemail messages or simply communicates messages of a salacious nature, or uses the phone to harass, this telephone harassment is cyberbullying and is against the law. If found guilty of these crimes, a person could be fined up to $5,000 and/or be sentenced up to a year in jail.
Like telephone harassment, cyberstalking is when someone uses a cell phone not to leave voice messages, but to target a person using text messages, email or social media.
Both telephone harassment and cyberstalking can become Class C felonies. If a person has been given a no-contact or no-harassment order and continues to contact the victim, these crimes convert to felonies. A felony is also routinely charged if the messages relay threats to kill the victim or someone else. Penalties for Class C felonies can levy fines of up to $10,000, five years in prison, or both.
Washington School Cyberbullying Policies
Washington laws require schools to establish rules against bullying and cyberbullying to protect students. The schools also are compelled to make these rules known to faculty, employees, students, and parents. The rules outline instructions for how the behavior must be reported and investigated. When someone reports a bullying situation, he or she is protected by the law for any possible charges or civil lawsuits. This protection covers school employees, students, or school volunteers.
Washington Cyberbullying Defenses
Free speech can be misunderstood. People cannot always say anything they want whenever they want, but these restrictions are very narrow. Generally, you have the right to speak your mind and present an opinion. For example, you can tell someone that you wish you could blow up your home in the context that you are mad at your parents for some reason, but you cannot yell “There's a bomb” in a crowded auditorium. The latter incites fear and a possible raucous that could lead to a need for emergency personnel responders. You can be charged for the latter offense and suffer strict punishment. These two examples are clear, but other situations are more vague. You could have a possible defense if there is a reasonable argument that your speech was protected.
Another possible defense is when the victim's response to something said was over the top. For example, if you text something to someone about something they were wearing, or say something on Facebook to someone in a joking way about the way they are behaving, and that person has a hypersensitive response and calls it cyberbullying, you could have a defense. To be cyberbullying, the messages must intimidate or bother any reasonable person in similar circumstances.
Cyberbullying laws continue to evolve to keep up with technology. If you or your child or loved one has been charged with or accused of cyberbullying, it is time to get advice from an experienced attorney. Call Karimi Law Office to learn more about your cyberbullying situation.