Many parents and children are beginning the school year with excitement and trepidation of what new things are in store. However, each year more and more children are returning to a place, not of learning and connecting with friends, but a place of hostility due to bullying.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
Cyberbullying, according to stopbullying.gov, is bullying that takes place using electronic technology.
As the use of technology and social media because more and more a way of life, especially with this age group, the ease, and accessibility to intimidate or torment someone, has become increasingly easier. While a teenager may think that what they are doing is harmless because it is just words on a screen or that it can be done and no one will know it’s them, it is Cyberbullying is a serious issue and one that in North Carolina can find a person being charged with a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor.
In 2009, North Carolina enacted the “cyberbullying statute” (NCGS § 14-458.1) which addresses the six ways that a person can be found guilty when a person uses a computer or computer network to bully someone. The six elements of the offense are as follows:
1. Building a fake profile or website; pose as a minor, follow a minor online or into an internet chatroom, and or post or encourage others to post on the Internet private, personal or sexual information pertaining to a minor with the intent to intimidate or torment a minor.
2. Post a real or doctored image of a minor on the Internet; access, alter, or erase any computer network, computer data, computer program, or computer software, including breaking into a password protected account or stealing or otherwise accessing passwords with the intent to intimidate or torment a minor or the minor’s parent or guardian.
3. Make any statement, where true or false, intending to immediately provoke, and that is likely to provoke, any third party to stalk or harass a minor.
4. Copy and disseminate or cause to be made, an unauthorized copy of any data pertaining to a minor for the purpose of intimidating or tormenting that minor in any form.
5. Sign up a minor for a pornographic Internet site with the intent to intimidate or torment the minor.
6. Without the authorization of the minor or the minor’s parents sign up a minor for an electronic mailing list or to receive junk electronic messages and instant messages for the purpose of intimidating or tormenting the minor.
As mentioned, violation of this statute can result in a misdemeanor conviction, the class, and subsequent punishment is based on the defendant’s age. If the defendant is eighteen or older at the time of the offense the defendant will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor and if the defendant is under the age of eighteen at the time of the offense the charge will be a Class 2 misdemeanor.
A Class 1 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 120 days in jail and a discretionary fine and a Class 2 misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of sixty days in jail and a $1,000 fine. While the statute does provide for discharge and dismissal of charges against defendants under eighteen, in certain circumstances and for expungement of the record if discharge and dismissal are ordered, facing this charge and possible punishment is something one shouldn’t do without guidance by an attorney experienced in handling cyberbullying cases.
If you or someone you know has been charged with cyberbullying please contact the Law Offices of Anna Smith Felts, PLLC to get the guidance you need.