The rise and development of social media has made it possible for us to communicate with people, ideas and groups all across the globe. We can follow the lives of celebrities, gain insights into the lives and homes of others, and find new friends with common interests on the other side of the world.
Sadly, the rise in social media has also resulted in some rather unsavory antisocial behavior. The anonymity offered by a screen and keyboard has led to people saying things and acting in ways they would not dream of doing face to face, and these interactions have the potential for devastating consequences in some cases. You may find you need a criminal defense lawyer.
One such example is cyber bullying, an activity which sadly seems to be on the rise for teens and young people in particular, and which has resulted in some victims taking their own lives to escape the harassment. Cyber bullying is a crime in the state of California, and anyone found to be a participant faces hefty consequences. A knowledgeable internet crime attorney can help if you need us.
Research shows that 21% of girls, and 15% of boys in California will experience bullying in school, and this can come in a number of forms, including cyber. In 2011, Seth’s Law widened the existing legislation to include bullying related to race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, offering protection to victims targeted by these categories.
What Is Cyber Bullying?
According to the California Education Code, bullying is defined as being “any physical or verbal conduct, including written communications, that may cause fear, mental distress, or interference with the victims studies.” By its very definition, the California Education Code includes the use of electronic communications to harass or cause distress to another individual, and this can be via text, email, instant messaging, social media or chat.
It is important to note that while schools and colleges in particular focus on cyber bullying as an issue which disproportionately impacts young people, anyone of any age can be charged and convicted of a cyber bullying offense, if they are found to be making threats, harassing another individual, or spreading hate via social media.
California law recognizes two types of online activity which are considered to be crimes:
- The Posting of Personal Information
The California Penal Code states that it is a misdemeanor for anyone to post or distribute any personally identifiable information without permission, or to harass another person, with the intent of causing that person to fear for his safety or the safety of their family, or for the purpose of causing unwanted contact or harassment by a third party.
- Using Electronic Means To Harass
It is also a misdemeanor to post videos, texts or photos, or use cell phones, web pages, or social media to communicate messages of a harassing nature that would incite injury or unlawful behavior. Messages of a harassing nature are defined as those that a reasonable person would consider seriously alarming, seriously annoying, or terrorizing.
What Are The Penalties?
In the event that you are convicted of either of the misdemeanors outlined above, you could face punishment of a year in jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
What Is Jordan’s Law?
In addition to the above legislation regarding cyber bullying, California also recently passed Jordan’s Law in response to the videotaping of the physical assault of a teen, with the recording then being posted on Snapchat.
This act makes the recording of a violent felony an aggravating factor in violent felony cases. When sentencing a person convicted of a violent felony, the court is able to consider the recording of the violence with the “intent to encourage or facilitate the offense” as a factor in sentencing.
What About Cyber Stalking?
In addition to cyber bullying, participants may also find themselves convicted of a stalking event, ever since legislation on stalking has been exposed to include any malicious or threatening behavior or harassment on electronic devices. This means that any unwanted behavior or threats made using social media will be treated as a criminal offense. If the threats made result in the victim fearing for their safety, or that of their family, this can be charged as a felony, with a sentence of up to three years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000 per threat made.
Cyber stalking as an offense is generally charged and convicted as a misdemeanor, but this is not always the case. If the suspect has a prior conviction for stalking, or their behavior violates a protective order, the crime will be charged as a felony, and can be punished with up to five years in prison.
Could Your Social Media Posts Land You in Jail?
The short answer to the above is yes: using social media to make threats, stalk another person, or engage in cyber bullying could see you punished with hefty fines and jail time. In addition, even posts made to your personal page could get you into serious trouble.
Violent videos in particular could see you convicted of a felony, and posting so-called ‘revenge porn’ – nude or compromising images of another person without their consent- could see you punished with up to six months in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000. As a general rule, the advice is never to post anything online that you wouldn’t want your mother to see, and this is a pretty good rule keeping yourself out of serious legal trouble.
How Can We Help?
If you have been the victim of a cyber crime, we are also on hand to help in any way we can, and will fight to help you secure the justice you deserve. The first thing to do is ensure that you have trustworthy, reliable legal representation on your side. Here at The Socal Law Network, our team has a wealth of experience in dealing with cyber crime, and especially those involving social media.
We can offer relevant, up to date advice, and help you to determine the best next steps for your individual circumstances. Get in touch today, and see how we could assist you in a difficult time.