Young people nowadays use social media as a way to communicate with their peers and share information. However, some teens in Virginia take things too far by using websites and apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, to engage in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying may involve sending threats online or posting hostile or vulgar messages directed at another person with the intent to hurt them. Teens may even post others’ private information or inappropriate, Photoshopped images of another person to embarrass them in front of their peers.
Many people know that cyberbullying is immoral and inappropriate, but they may be unaware that it can be classified as a juvenile criminal offense in the state of Virginia. According to state law, anyone who knowingly threatens to injure or kill another person can face a Class 6 felony charge, which may result in up to five years in jail. Using a computer to harass another person is also a crime and may qualify as a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, a young person may face $2,500 in fines and 12 months in jail.
Young people may be under the impression that they can say anything they want online without consequence. However, teens should know that using the Internet to make threats or bully someone could result in criminal penalties, as well as expulsion from school. Claiming that a post was a “joke” is generally not enough to avoid these serious consequences. However, charges may be reduced if it is proven that the teen lacked the intent to coerce, intimidate or harass someone else, or that the accused teen did not actually create the offensive post.
If your teen is facing criminal charges for cyberbullying, you may benefit from the assistance of a criminal defense attorney. Your attorney can evaluate your case and come up with a strong defense to protect your child from serious penalties.
Source: Virginia.gov, “Virginia’s Anti-Bullying Initiative,” accessed on March 13, 2018