Cyberbullying Laws in New York

by ECL Writer
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Cyberbullying is the use of technology, such as the internet, social media, and mobile devices, to harass, intimidate, or harm others. This can include posting hurtful comments, sharing embarrassing photos or videos, spreading rumors or lies, and threatening messages. Cyberbullying can happen to anyone, but it is most commonly directed at children and teenagers. It can have serious consequences, including depression, anxiety, and even suicide. Cyberbullying is a growing concern and it’s important for parents, educators, and other adults to be aware of the signs and take steps to prevent it. And there are laws put in place in every state to look into cyberbullying. In this article. will outline all you need to know about cyberbullying laws in New York State.

Does New York have a cyberbullying law?

New York doesn’t have a criminal statute devoted specifically to cyberbullying. Rather, it can be prosecuted as harassment or stalking. New York State has several laws that address cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment. One of the state’s laws is the “Dignity for All Students Act” (DASA), which was enacted in 2010 to provide a safe and supportive school environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying. The law applies to cyberbullying that occurs on or off school property if it interferes with a student’s education or creates a hostile school environment.

Additionally, New York has also criminal laws that prohibit certain forms of cyberbullying, such as cyberstalking, harassment, and dissemination of an unlawful surveillance image.

Cyberbullying as Harassment

If someone frequently engages in behavior that is meant to annoy or scare a victim, they may be charged with criminal harassment (which has no legitimate legal purpose). Depending on how bad the defendant’s acts were, there are different kinds of harassment, with harsher crimes carrying heavier punishments.

Is cyberstalking a crime in New York?

In New York, cyberstalking is considered a crime. It is defined as the use of the internet, email, or other electronic means to harass or threaten someone. Cyberstalking can be charged as a criminal offense and can result in both criminal and civil penalties. If convicted, a person could face significant fines and even imprisonment. It’s always a good idea to consult with a lawyer to understand the specific laws in your jurisdiction, and if you or someone you know is being cyber stalked, it’s important to report it to the police and seek help.

Penalties for Cyberbullying in New York?

A person accused of harassing or stalking for engaging in cyberbullying may receive a violation or be found guilty of a felony, depending on the specifics of the case.

Penalties for Cyberbullying as Harassment

Violations of the law that can result in up to 15 days in jail and a $250 fine are the first stage of harassment offenses. These offenses are deliberate attempts to make the victim very angry, but they don’t put the victim in danger of getting hurt. However, the offense becomes harassment in the first degree, which is a class B misdemeanor, if the victim has a reasonable fear for their physical safety as a result of the conduct. Class B offenses are punishable by a $500 fine and up to 90 days in prison.

When certain defined factors—such as prior convictions—are present at the time of the offense, either harassment crime may escalate to aggravated harassment (in the first or second degree). For instance, it is aggravated harassment in the second degree to threaten the victim or their family with physical danger or to destroy the victim’s or their family’s property while using any kind of electronic communication to harass the victim. If the act is a “hate crime,” then it also constitutes aggravating harassment. A defendant is said to have committed a hate crime if they were motivated by prejudice towards the victim’s race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, among other protected classes.

A class A misdemeanor, aggravated harassment in the second degree is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. First-degree aggravated offenses are punishable by up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine under class E felonies.

Penalties for Cyberbullying as Stalking

The least serious stalking offense is charged as fourth-degree stalking, and when specific circumstances were present, the offense is upgraded to third-, second-, and first-degree stalking. Fourth-degree stalking is a class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum jail sentence of 90 days as well as fines. Third-degree stalking entails a pattern of behavior that makes the victim fear for their bodily safety. Up to 364 days in prison and fines are possible class A misdemeanor penalties for these acts. Bullying a victim under the age of 14 by a defendant 21 or older or threatening to use force against the victim are examples of second-degree stalking.

Up to four years in jail are possible for this class E felony. A class D felony is first-degree stalking. This punishment is imposed when the offender harms the victim willfully or carelessly. A class D felony conviction carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.


Defenses to Criminal Charges Related to Cyberbullying

Charges of stalking or harassment that go to trial may have a number of defenses. Your attorney may suggest other defenses, such as the ones listed below if you have been accused of these or other crimes.

Free Speech

You may already be aware that the First Amendment guarantees you the freedom to free expression. Your attorney might be able to contend that your acts and statements qualify as protected speech. You are free to express your political views, for instance, even if they are unpopular. However, there are restrictions on the right to free expression. When free speech is viewed as a major and immediate threat, the state may restrict it.

Not Really Threatening

In order for harassment to qualify as stalking, the victim’s concern must be “reasonable.” The defendant’s actions would have been perceived as threatening by a normal reasonable person in the victim’s situation. Charges of stalking or harassment may be dropped against the defendant if it can be proven that the victim was overly sensitive to events that would not alarm the average reasonable person.

Legal Activities

As was already indicated, there must be some sort of intentionality and no justifiable reason for the crimes of harassment and stalking. Because they may upset the intended audience but serve a legally protected goal, some activities, such as lawful protests or labor strikes, are therefore protected (so long as the participants do not break any laws while engaging in the activity).

New York’s Legally Mandated Anti-Cyberbullying School Policies

All public and charter schools in New York are required to operate under an anti-bullying policy, which must forbid harassment (including hate crimes) and cyberbullying (laws) on school grounds and during school functions. Each school district is required to create its own rules that cover how to recognize, report, look into, and deal with reported bullying, harassment, and cyberbullying incidents (including a statement of which school employees are responsible for handling each of these procedures).

Civil Lawsuits for Cyberbullying

You can see that the effects of cyberbullying greatly depend on the specifics of the incident. A disruptive cyberbullying episode may occasionally be resolved in accordance with school policy, but more severe situations frequently end up in criminal court. Similarly to this, a victim of cyberbullying may occasionally file a legal lawsuit against the bully to recover damages for the emotional, social, or monetary injury. A judge or jury may award monetary damages to the victim in a civil case, for example, to cover the cost of counseling for the emotional trauma the bully caused the victim or to cover the cost of property damage as a result of the crime.

What You Should Know

Anyone who is being investigated for cyberbullying-related crimes should contact a local criminal defense lawyer. Speak with a lawyer who handles civil defense if you are the target of a civil action seeking damages.

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