Debunking 3 Cyberbullying Arrest and Charge Myths

New Jersey has one of the strongest cyberbullying laws in the nation. While most people conceive of cyberbullying as occurring between or among children and teens, the scope of the term and New Jersey’s law go well beyond insults leveled by adolescents. In fact, it is probably more accurate to refer to New Jersey’s law as an anti-cyber harassment law. As such, the law can cover an array of online conduct meant to harass, threaten, intimidate, or humiliate an individual through the posting of lewd or indecent materials.If you, your child, or another loved one is facing cyberharassment or cyberbullying charges in New Jersey, the Atlantic city criminal lawyers of the Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to fight for you. For more than 30 years, we have fought to protect individuals against police and prosecutorial overreach. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call (609) 616-4956 today.

Myth #1: You Can Only be Charged with Cyber Harassment under Narrow Circumstances

As stated above, many people conceive of New Jersey’s anti-cyber harassment laws through the lens of the tragic cyberbullying scenario that unfolded at Rutgers University in 2010. That is, they conceive of the scope of the law only applying to the schoolyard and school disputes that end up online. However, the law applies more broadly.

The text of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4.1 Cyber-harassment sets forth the scenarios under which an individual can be charged with cyber harassment. Generally, a person commits a cyber harassment offense when they intend to make a harassing online communication on a social networking or another site that:

  1. threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person;
  2. sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person; or
  3. threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person’s property.

Thus, there are three broad scenarios where the cyber harassment law can apply. The first scenario can be thought of in terms of the traditional crime of assault – simply the action occurs online rather than in person. The second scenario covers most types of situations that have come to be known as “revenge porn.” Finally, the third element is a broad catch-all that creates a penalty for threatening any illegal action against the person or their property. Thus, the applicability of NJ’s cyberbullying law is much broader than most people conceive.

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Myth #2: CyberBullying Charges Aren’t a Big Deal

Perhaps as a result of people’s mistaken perceptions of the anti-cyber harassment Many people conceive of the consequences attached to the law as being little more than a potential slap on the wrist. Unfortunately for individuals who allow their assumptions regarding light penalties to motivate illegal actions, penalties for violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4.1 can be severe.

The general rule classifies violations of this statute as a fourth-degree indictable offense. An indictable offense is New Jersey’s version of a felony. A fourth-degree crime can be punished by a prison sentence of up to 18 months and a monetary fine. However, if the crime is committed by an individual 21 years of age or older and impersonates a minor for the purposes of harassing a minor, the act is upgraded to a third-degree crime. Conviction of a third-degree crime can result in a prison sentence of no less than three years, but not more than five years. A fine of up to $15,000 can also be ordered.

Myth #3: Only the Online Abuser Can Face Punishment

One unique wrinkle regarding the law occurs when the individual who is convicted of violating one or more of its provisions is a minor under the age of 16. When a minor under the age of 16 is adjudicated delinquent for cyber harassment, then the judge has the discretion to order the minor and the minor’s parent or guardian to complete one or both of:

  • An educational or training program intended to reduce “the tendency toward cyber-harassment behavior.”
  • An educational or training program intended to inform regarding the consequences and dangers that can result from cyber harassment.
  • Furthermore, any parent or guardian that disregards a court order concerning the education and training can be found guilty of a disorderly person offense.
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Work with an Atlantic City Criminal Defense Lawyer When Charged with Cyber Harassment

If you or your child have been charged with cyberharassment or cyberbullying, serious consequences can apply. Unfortunately, the broad nature of this law makes it ripe for overreach by police and prosecutors. Furthermore, depending on the nature of the conduct, additional charges for terroristic threats could be levied. If you or your child are facing cyberbullying charges, the Atlantic County assault defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to help. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation, call (609) 616-4956 today.

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