Orange County Cyberbullying Defense Attorneys
The word “bullying” may conjure up images of schoolyard fights, but in our technological age, the arena is the internet. While many cases of cyberbullying involve teenagers, adults also can be caught up in aggressive arguments that go a step too far and face criminal charges for what they say and do online.
If you or your child has been charged with harassing someone online, contact Law Office of Michael L. Guisti immediately. Our Orange County cyberbullying defense attorney can investigate the nature of your charges, build a defense to protect your rights, negotiate with the district attorney to have your charges dropped, or aggressively defend you in a courtroom. Call us today at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to get a free case evaluation.
Cyberbullying is the act of harassing, threatening, or bullying someone online with an electronic device, such as on social media, through emails, text messages, or website forums. It can overlap with cyberstalking, as both of these charges are based on California’s harassment and stalking laws. According to California Penal Code 646.9 PC, it is illegal for anyone to “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly” harass someone else and to make “a credible threat with the intent” to cause that person to fear for his or her life or safety “or the safety of his or her immediate family.” This law applies to a variety of scenarios, but in the case of cyberbullying, it must involve the use of an “electronic device.”
Cyberbullying differs from cyberstalking based on the intent of the defendant’s actions. Cyberstalkers typically believe that they have a relationship with the victim and are trying to solicit romantic or sexual relations. With cyberbullying, the defendant may have intended to inflict physical harm or emotional distress on the victim, often by getting her to harm herself or even commit suicide.
Cyberbullying can include:
- Sending threatening or harmful messages to the victim
- Posting explicit images or videos of a victim on social media
- Hacking into the victim’s online accounts to share embarrassing, explicit, or damaging content
- Inciting others on social media to commit violence against or harm the victim
Like most internet crimes, cyberbullying often takes place on social media. Numerous people are threatened on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Tik-Tok by seemingly “anonymous” accounts, but nothing is truly anonymous. People should be aware that they do have a digital footprint that can be traced back to them. Because of the complexities of these cases, which sometimes cross state lines, federal agencies often become involved to investigate allegations of cyberbullying. This can mean an invasion of your privacy, in addition to other consequences.
Cyberbullying is sentenced based on California’s harassment or criminal threat laws, much the same as cyberstalking. Depending on the alleged harm the victims faced and the nature of the threats, defendants in cyberbullying cases may face the harshest possible penalties.
Both harassment and criminal threats are wobbler crimes, meaning they can be punished as misdemeanors or felonies. With a misdemeanor charge, a cyberbullying defendant may face:
- Up to one year in county jail;
- A maximum fine of $1,000;
- Misdemeanor probation;
- Potential restraining order; and/or
- Restitution to the victim.
A felony can vary with regard to punishments, but a conviction can include:
- Up to two, three, or five years in state prison for felony harassment;
- Up to three years in state prison for felony criminal threats;
- A potential strike under California’s Three Strike Laws for criminal threats;
- A maximum fine of $10,000;
- Felony probation;
- Potential restraining order; and/or
- Restitution to the victim.
It is important to note that if a juvenile commits a crime, the process will be significantly different. Most cyberbullying cases involve students in high school and middle school, where social media plays a major factor in their social lives. While these cases are common, many are handled separately by the schools, most of which have started anti-cyberbullying education to curb this harmful behavior. In serious cases, the school may suspend or expel a student who has been accused of cyberbullying.
If the situation persists outside of the school or the police become involved, the juvenile may be charged with a crime. Juvenile courts hand out less serious penalties than adult courts, but these penalties can still impact a teenager’s future. He or she may be placed on juvenile probation, sent to a detention center, have to perform community service, and face a restraining order. This will all depend on the severity of the crime, the age of the minor, and how aware he or she was of the crime that was committed.
Cyberbullying cases are complex and require a thorough investigation. The prosecution may act fast to secure digital records, such as browser histories, social media accounts, emails, and cellphone records. Even if a defendant deletes a message, screenshots and archives can still be acquired. If you are facing a charge of cyberbullying, you need to build a strong defense immediately.
At Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our lead attorney can act swiftly to protect your privacy and advocate for your future. We have successfully handled many complex cases and can prepare several defenses, including:
- Your actions did not constitute a criminal threat and are protected by your First Amendment Rights.
- You had no intent to cause harm to the alleged victim or make the victim fear for his/her life.
- The victim did not reasonably fear for his/her life or safety.
- Any perceived threats were not credible.
- You did not act willfully or maliciously.
- The accusations against you are false, and it is a case of mistaken identity.
- The police performed an illegal search and seizure.
Cyberbullying is a relatively new crime in California, and the states are constantly developing new methods to combat it. An accusation can snowball quickly and requires a swift defense to avoid having your privacy invaded. If you or someone you love has been charged with online harassment or threats, reach out to an Orange County criminal defense lawyer at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti. Our lead attorney is a member of the Top 100 National Trial Attorneys and has years of experience defending clients throughout Orange County. Do not put your freedom in the hands of a court. To get a free case evaluation, call Law Office of Michael L. Guisti at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.
Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.