The issue of bullying has become a hot topic all over the U.S in recent years. Tragic events such as victim suicides and violent assaults have turned the spotlight on the debate of exactly when and how bullying becomes a criminal act. At the forefront of this debate is the increasing trend of cyber bullying where often the bullies anonymously attack their victims online through fake profiles and social media accounts.
What is Cyber Bullying?
The Attorney General of the State of Massachusetts classifies Cyber Bullying as “electronically communicated threats and willful and malicious directing electronic communications at a specific person that seriously alarm that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.”
Children and Adults may be Charged with Cyber Bullying
Many feel that the problem with cyber bullying is that it does not end at the toll of the school bell or end of the work day. It continues every time the victim uses their smartphone, handheld device, or computer. This is why cyber bullying is considered an extreme form of harassment. The Massachusetts legislature has made laws regarding cyber bullying sweepingly severe, this means children to adults can be charged, convicted, and penalized for Cyber bullying crimes.
Massachusetts Penalties for Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying is classified under the same penal laws as hate crimes, criminal harassment, and stalking. This means penalties for cyber bullying can be severe depending on the circumstances.
First time cyber bullying offenders will most likely face misdemeanor charges, depending on the circumstances and damages surrounding the case. If convicted as a misdemeanor the punishment can include the payment of fines and community service. For repeat offenders or cyber bullying that resulted in more sever damages, including victim injury or death, the suspect could face felony charges. Felony convictions apply to the “Three Strike Rule,” and can result in serious fines and significant jail time.
If you have questions about Massachusetts laws regarding bullying at school or the workplace, contact our attorneys for a case evaluation.