Cyberbullying, broadly speaking, relates to harassment that takes place on the Internet. Specifically, under Arizona law, any form of online threat, harassment or bullying is considered cyberbullying.
The act of cyberbullying is a crime, and a conviction for online harassment carries serious legal consequences, including the possibility of a criminal record.
Arizona Cyberbullying Law
Since Arizona passed its initial anti-cyberbullying bill in 2012, the state has continued to crack down on cyberbullying with additional laws focused on reducing the harms of bullying behavior online. For example, Arizona made “revenge porn” — posting naked photos or videos of an ex-partner — an illegal Class 5 felony punishable by up to a year in prison in 2014.
The statute that will apply to the vast majority of cyberbullying offenses is rooted in Arizona anti-harassment law. ARS 13-2921(A) states that an individual commits cyberbullying harassment if they intend to harass or have knowledge that they are harassing another person by anonymously or otherwise contacting, communicating or causing a communication with another person in a manner that harasses.
While the definition of the statute is a legal mouthful, know that using the following harassment methods can constitute cyberbullying:
As such, the statute is a catch-all of sorts designed to hold individuals accountable for any type of harassment, including cyberbullying. If convicted of cyberbullying, the legal consequences are often severe.
For the purposes of the statute, Arizona law makes it clear that harassment means conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable individual to be seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed. Further, the conduct must actually alarm, annoy or harass the targeted person in question. If these statutory requirements apply to your cyberbullying charges, you may be left facing the following legal consequences.
Legal Consequences of a Cyberbullying Conviction
Cyberbullying convictions may lead to a range of severe legal outcomes, depending on the facts of the case. In other words, cyberbullying could be just one of several serious charges levied against a defendant.
If hacking, stalking, blackmail or similar behavior was part of the cyberbullying, these charges may be included, which can lead to criminal state convictions as well as possible federal charges.
Penalties for cyberbullying will depend on the degree of the cyberbullying offense. Typically, harassment is a misdemeanor offense, and harassment under the cyberbullying statute of 13-2921(A) classifies as a misdemeanor offense. The penalties for both misdemeanor harassment and the misdemeanor of threatening or intimidating conduct both can lead to:
- A maximum of 6 months in jail
- A $2,500 fine
- Both a $2,500 fine and a maximum of 6 months in jail
The Obligation for Arizona Schools to Combat Harassment
It is a fact of cyberbullying that teenagers are often the perpetrators and victims of online harassment. As such, Arizona law (ARS 15-341) requires schools to implement policies that will prevent students from engaging in harassment, intimidation and bullying “through the use of electronic technology, communications, networks, forums or mailing lists.”
Arizona law sets forth detailed guidelines on how schools can take steps to prevent such behavior by their students. Online bullying usually has clearly traceable records due to the online nature of the offense, making it relatively easy to discover who did the harassing. If you have been charged with cyberbullying, you need a criminal defense lawyer who will aggressively fight the charges.
Cyberbullying can lead to an unwanted record that follows you wherever you go. To avoid these negative consequences, you need a lawyer who will fight to defend you and, if possible, to have the charges dismissed. Contact Tyler Allen Law Firm, PLLC for a legal consultation with a cyberbullying defense lawyer who will provide you with excellent legal representation and sound legal advice.