Is Cyberbullying Illegal in Utah?
The internet can be accessed from anywhere at any time, and digital communication is a daily part of our lives. Unfortunately, digital communications also make harassment, intimidation, and bullying easier. Using the internet or other digital technologies to harass others is often referred to as cyberbullying and can land you in serious legal trouble.
Cyberbullying may be criminally charged in Utah. While there is no statute specifically about cyberbullying, some statutes make certain types of digital communications illegal. Using the internet to harass or intimidate is a common form of illegal cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is common among juveniles, but adults can also be charged.
Sometimes cyberbullying begins as an argument, disagreement, or even a practical joke that gets out of hand. Do not let one mistake ruin your life. Our Utah criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your charges. Call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 for a free case evaluation.
What Is Cyberbullying in Utah?
Cyberbullying is an increasing problem as we increasingly rely on digital technology. Many people assume cyberbullying is a problem amongst kids and teenagers, but adults have been known to engage in forms of cyberbullying and online harassment as well.
Harassment and intimidation are common elements of cyberbullying. In many cases, communications are sent from the defendant directly to the alleged victim. A person may be charged with a cyberbullying-related crime whether or not the victim responds to these messages. In some cases, the harassment is not sent to the victim, but messages about the victim are sent to others. Spreading private information or false rumors about a victim may fall under the umbrella of cyberbullying even if the victim is not the recipient of those messages.
Cyberbullying sometimes has sexual elements. For example, suppose one person sends nude photos of themselves to a romantic partner, and the recipient spreads the image to others out of spite after a breakup. This “revenge porn” is absolutely a form of cyberbullying but may be charged differently.
Cyberbullying typically involves some intent to cause another person distress. Sending a message that the recipient finds offensive might not be considered cyberbullying if the sender truly meant no harm. Call our Logan criminal defense attorneys to discuss your case and get answers.
Criminal Charges for Cyberbullying in Utah
The concept of cyberbullying can be a bit broad, but specific criminal charges might apply in your case. Cyberbullying is not just “kids being kids.” It is a form of harassment and may land a juvenile or adult in some very hot water. If you or your child face charges for cyberbullying, call our Utah cyberbullying defense lawyers.
An instance of cyberbullying would likely be charged under Utah Code § 76-9-201 as “electronic communication harassment.” This offense may consist of repeated contacts through electronic or digital means. The alleged victim need not respond to any messages for charges to apply. Electronic communication harassment may also apply when a victim requests the defendant stop contacting them, but the defendant persists. Harassment of this nature may consist of taunts, insults, intimidation, threats, or challenges to the victim.
The harassment need not necessarily be directed at the victim. Instead, taking pictures or personal identifying information of the victim and posting it on social media or other online public forums may also constitute electronic communication harassment. Using personal information to impersonate someone online can also be charged. Generally, the defendant must have intended to cause damage or distress to the victim or defraud them for these charges to apply.
Electronic communication harassment is charged as a Class B misdemeanor and punished by a jail term of up to 6 months. A subsequent offense may be charged as a Class A misdemeanor and punished by up to 364 days in jail.
If cyberbullying crosses the line into harassment of a sexual nature, there may be other criminal charges that could apply. Receiving nude or risqué photos from romantic partners is not unusual, but sending those photos to third parties without consent from the person in the photo may be a crime. You could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor for distributing an intimate image of an adult under Utah’s “revenge porn” law, § 76-5b-203. Distributing graphic images of a minor may be charged under child pornography laws.
What If My Child Is Charged with Cyberbullying in Utah?
When juveniles are charged with a crime, they do not go through the same criminal justice system as an adult. Instead, they are put through the juvenile justice system, which tends to focus more on rehabilitation and less on punishment. However, serious penalties may still apply to juvenile offenders.
Penalties for juveniles include probation, state supervision, community placement, and being placed in a secure facility. Probation and state supervision are both forms of supervision. State supervision is a bit more severe than probation, but both allow juveniles to remain at home with restrictions on travel and what they can do in their free time.
Community placement is similar to state supervision but includes a broader spectrum of services. This is often imposed in more serious cases where the juvenile has more needs that must be met for rehabilitation to occur. Being placed in a secure facility means the juvenile must leave home and stay in a detention center for juvenile offenders.
The juvenile justice system works differently than the adult system, and your child needs representation from an experienced attorney. Call our Park City criminal defense attorneys for assistance.
Contact Our Cyberbullying Defense Lawyers for Help
If you or your child is charged with cyberbullying-related criminal offenses, you need an experienced attorney to help you. Our Ogden criminal defense attorneys can help you fight your charges. Call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287 to discuss your situation in a free case review.