Just as with any other issue, the laws surrounding criminal harassment and cyberbullying differ from state to state. This leaves many wondering what the law is on criminal harassment and cyberbullying in California. When technology grows, so does the need for laws to change.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is essentially online harassment, and it is considered a crime in the state of California. This harassment may also include intimidation or consistent annoyance, sometimes called “trolling.” The cyber aspect of cyberbullying comes from any sort of electronic communication, including messages, texts, images, and social media posts.
Cyberbullies can use online games, messaging systems, social media, blogs, and other electronic means of communication to taunt and harass, but the behavior often translates into physical bullying as well. Harassment can occur via direct or indirect attacks. In some cases, the bully finds a way to campaign others so that they also spread harassing or intimidating messages.
Types of Criminal Cyberbullying
In California, criminal cyberbullying comes in two forms.
First, it is a crime to post personal information that could inspire fear or intimidate the victim. This could include personally identifying information, like a home address or phone number. It could also include harassing messages that invoke emotional harm or fear, intentionally causing this person to become afraid.
Second, there is any sort of harassment that occurs over electronic communication. Telephones and other electronics are not to be used to transmit material that is both obscene and intended to threaten or cause harm to somebody else. This could include a threat against the individual or a family member intended to be the victim.
The Difficulty of Prosecuting Cyberbullying
One of the major difficulties associated with prosecuting cyberbullies is the anonymity that the web offers many of those who engage. Additionally, multiple people are often involved in a case of cyberbullying, and identifying all those involved can be difficult without cooperation. It is also difficult considering the fact that so many cyberbullies are underage.
Cyberbullying is often also difficult because victims don’t tend to come forward, often out of humiliation and fear. This means that it can be difficult to determine how often cyberbullying and online harassment actually occur.
Punishments for Criminal Harassment & Cyberbullying Crimes
Generally, cyberbullying is considered a misdemeanor in California according to California Penal Code 653.2 and California Penal Code 653m. Those who are charged with misdemeanors spend one year or less in jail and may be subject to a fine of $1,000 or less. In many cases, the punishments accumulate as a result of multiple charges involved in each case.
The Role of Schools in Cyberbullying & Harassment
California’s unique Safe Place to Learn Act requires that educational facilities adopt polices for dealing with harassment and bullying between students according to California Education Code 234. These policies must include a thorough process for students to report bullying, and the school must have a process for investigating these reports. Schools are also forced to intervene and prevent bullying whenever possible.
These laws also require that harassment, intimidation, bullying, and similar offenses could lead to suspension or expulsion of the offending student.
This act is especially important, considering the fact that the majority of bullies and their victims are attending high school or are minors.
Whether you have questions about harassment and cyberbullying or you have a case of your own, it is essential that you speak to an attorney for answers. An attorney can help you sort out the law and determine your next course of action.
Do you still have questions about criminal harassment and cyberbullying laws in California? Contact us if need help with your case.