The 4 Wisconsin Laws Cyberbullying May Implicate
Bullying is defined as behavior that is intended to cause intimidation, fear, or harm to others. "Cyberbullying" is a relatively new term for the same maltreatment except that it is perpetrated through the Internet or text messages. Cyberbullying may involve criminal charges in Wisconsin. If the accused is found guilty of a crime, fines and/or jail time may be imposed.
Examples of Cyberbullying
Due to the proliferation of Internet-enabled devices and social media platforms, there are numerous ways cyberbullying can occur, including:
- Sending threatening or malicious text messages, instant messages, or emails.
- Blocking someone from e-mail or chat platforms for no reason.
- Tricking someone into sharing embarrassing personal information and publishing the information to third party platforms.
- Posing as someone else on social media and sending upsetting or false messages.
- Creating a website to tease or ridicule another person.
- Utilizing platforms that rate others as most attractive and least attractive.
Laws Used to Prosecute Cyberbullying
Wisconsin does not have a criminal law specifically prohibiting cyberbullying. Instead, cyberbullying can result in one of several charges, depending on the facts of each case.
1. Harassment. The definition of this crime includes “engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly committing acts that harass or intimidate a person and which serve no legitimate purpose.” Harassment convictions are a Class B forfeitures, and the forfeiture cannot exceed $1,000.
Harassment is a Class A misdemeanor if the threat reasonably causes the victim to fear great bodily harm or death or if there was an injunction in place at the time of the harassment. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or nine months imprisonment.
2. Unlawful Use of Telephone. The definition of this crime includes threats of physical harm or use of obscene or profane language with the intent to frighten, intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass. This crime is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 90 days imprisonment.
3. Unlawful Use of Computerized Communications Systems. This crime is similar to Unlawful Use of Telephone, except that it applies to messages sent by computer or email. This crime also includes sending a message where the sender has concealed or attempted to conceal his or her identity. This crime is a Class B misdemeanor.
4. Stalking. This crime is defined as someone intentionally engaging in two or more actions with the same purpose causing the victim to reasonably experience serious emotional distress or fear of bodily injury. The accused must know or should have known that the actions would cause such a reaction in the victim. This crime is a Class I felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or 42 months in prison.
In addition, if an accused is a student, cyberbullying could violate school policy. Wisconsin requires that every school board have a bullying policy in place. These policies are written broadly enough to encompass cyberbullying as an offense.
Contact a Milwaukee Computer Crimes Defense Lawyer
If you have been accused of cyberbullying by a school or charged with a crime by the state, you should seek professional legal assistance right away. Because the crime of cyberbullying is relatively new, the laws are not well-developed, and you will need an attorney who will be able to make persuasive arguments that may never have been presented to a court.
As someone accused of a crime, you have constitutional rights, which a lawyer can aggressively safeguard. Specifically with cyberbullying, your First Amendment freedom of speech rights may be an issue. Contact the Milwaukee cyberbullying defense attorneys at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP at 414-271-1440 to schedule a meeting with one of our skilled attorneys.