As technology evolves, so do outlets for abusive, ugly behavior. It follows that the latest cause for concern around the country is the age of cyberbullying. Unlike physical bullying, cyberbullying often involves psychological harassment that can scar a person on the receiving end for years. Cyberbullying using an electronic format to make threats to cause a victim injury and knowingly sending messages or materials that would instill a reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm. Cyberbullying generally falls under New Jersey’s cyber harassment laws.
Cyberbullying and New Jersey
Starting just about three years ago, cyber harassment is a criminal act in New Jersey that could be potentially charged as a third or fourth-degree felony offense. In short, cyberbullying could land a person in jail. The law states the following:
Cyber-Harassment N.J.S.A 2C:33-4.1
a. A person commits the crime of cyber-harassment if, while making a communication in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site and with the purpose to harass another, the person:
(1) threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person;
(2) knowingly sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm a reasonable person or place a reasonable person in fear of physical or emotional harm to his person; or
(3) threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person’s property.
Cyber harassment could fall into anything from sending abusive text messages to social media harassment and beyond.
Cyber harassment is, in most cases, a fourth-degree crime on its own. Those charges could face up to 18 months in prison, a sizable fine of up to $10,000 and, in some cases, both. Cyber harassment could also be charged as a third-degree crime in some situations. For example, if the person carrying out the cyberbullying was 21-years-old or older, but pretended to be a minor just so they could harass someone, penalties are much heavier. Those charged could face a fine of up to $15,000 as well as three to five years in prison.
Cyberbullying is a very serious allegation that should not be taken lightly. A charge like this could ruin a person’s reputation. In many cases, the cyber harassment can be a misunderstanding. If you or someone you know is facing charges of cyberbullying, contact a lawyer who could help. Contact the law offices of John W. Tumelty online or by phone at 609.385.4010 today to schedule you case evaluation.