In today’s digital world, harassment and bullying don’t always occur in person, but instead may involve text, email, social media, or other digital tools and communications. In some cases, cyberbullying and online harassment can constitute a crime. If you are facing charges of cyberbullying and online harassment, working with a skilled defense lawyer who is familiar with cases like yours is important. To learn more about how to defend yourself against charges, reach out to Attorney Paul R. Moraski today.
What Is Cyberbullying and Online Harassment?
Massachusetts maintains multiple laws and regulations related to bullying and cyberbullying, including laws pertaining to:
- Bullying in schools
- Violating Constitutional rights
- Criminal harassment
- Hazing reporting requirements for schools
Under the “bullying in schools” statute, found in Massachusetts Code Chapter 71 Section 370, bullying is defined as the repeated use of an expression or physical act or gesture that’s directed at a victim that:
- Causes physical or emotional harm;
- Damages the victim’s property;
- Places the victim in fear of harm to self or property;
- Creates a hostile environment for the victim;
- Infringes on the right of the victim while at school; or
- Materially and substantially disrupts the education process of the school.
Cyberbullying is further defined as the act of bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, such as text messages, emails, or social media.
Penalties for Minors and Adults
For children who are accused of cyberbullying, the same statute cited above requires regulations for a school to conduct an investigation and to maintain policies related to discipline. In some cases, a child or an adult may be charged with criminal harassment, which is defined as a pattern of conduct or acts directed at a specific person and which would reasonably cause a person to suffer emotional distress. Criminal harassment can result in a fine of up to $1,000, jail time for up to two and a half years, or both for a first offense. Stalking is another cybercrime that is punishable under the law—penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to five years, or both for a first offense.
Defenses to Cyberbullying and Harassment
The best course of defense when an adult or minor is facing charges related to cyberbullying and cyber harassment depends on the specific charges and situation. Some common defenses to cyberbullying include arguing that the behavior/speech is protected under free speech protections; another defense is that the behavior or speech is not really threatening and does not meet the definition of reasonably causing a person to feel distress or fear.
Call The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski Today to Learn More
At The Law Office of Paul R. Moraski, our criminal defense attorney understands that for parents, it can be shocking when a child is facing repercussions at school and criminal consequences following allegations of cyberbullying and online harassment. For legal representation when you and your family need it most, call (978) 397-0011 directly or send us a message online. We are here to help you understand the law and build the best defense possible.