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What to Do and What Not to Do When Accused of Cyberbullying

cyberbullying, Wheaton criminal defense attorneyIn this brave new digital age of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and countless other social media apps and websites, bullying is no longer just an in-person way for a kid to get some lunch money at school. It is now a global issue that, under many circumstances, has the potential to be as harmful as it ubiquitous—sometimes even involving adults.

Schools are not the only organizations taking notice of this modern type of bullying. In fact, there is computer crime legislation in place across the nation, including Illinois, that sets forth rules to legally punish those who engage in cyberbullying. If you are accused of cyberbullying, consider these tips.

DO NOT:

  • Close or deactivate online accounts used to propagate the cyberbullying or open new accounts. This is a bit like hiding the murder weapon if accused of murder, only the hiding place is in plain sight. Social media sites and cell service providers often can retrieve data regardless of account status. More importantly, suspicious major online account actions can backfire and make you look guilty from the start.
  • Reach out to the accuser. Of course, you would like to civilly handle things without intervention from the law, but if the accuser is already getting the law involved, communicating without legal representation could create a host of legal issues for you as the case progresses.
  • Threaten those who could offer evidence or testimony against you. As with most criminal cases, the slightest tinge of a warning directed toward acquaintances and even your friends or family who might be able to give the prosecution help with their case could give the court all the evidence it needs to find you guilty.

DO:

  • Delete the messages, images, or other content that is causing harm. Unlike deactivating accounts, which is usually only helpful if keeping those accounts open would cause harm to the person being bullied, removing the content if posted publicly online will prevent further damage to the person’s reputation and psychological state. And, of course, do not post anything new about the situation, and do not persist with cyberbullying.
  • Hire a criminal defense attorney. Do not think you can handle this on your own. The penalties for cybercrimes, including cyberstalking and cyberbullying, are steep, including up to three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Do not think being a minor makes a difference, either. Earlier this year, two teen girls in Ohio were charged criminally for “telecommunication harassment.”  You will need an experienced attorney to help guide you through this challenging process.
  • Communicate with your children and/or lawyer. Be open and honest about the situation. If your child is being accused, have a talk with them about why what they might have done would be wrong and why they have been accused of it. Get their side of the story and then offer guidance. If you are the one being accused, be open and honest with your lawyer. Your lawyer is your ally throughout the process. Give him or her all the facts so he or she can better defend you. 

Contact a DuPage County Computer Crimes Attorney

Do not let cyberbullying ruin you or anyone else’s life. Call a Wheaton, IL, cyberbullying lawyer at (630) 260-9647 for a free consultation. Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, offers valuable legal representation that is responsive to the needs of you or your child if accused of cyberbullying. He will use his prior experience in law enforcement as a police officer and commissioner to anticipate the prosecution’s arguments and properly prepare your defense. With the help of experts in computer forensics and other Internet-savvy professionals, he will do everything possible to develop a winning defense for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/how-to-report

https://www.fox19.com/2020/02/21/teens-accused-cyberbullying-girl-with-special-needs-now-facing-criminal-charges/

https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1581/cyberbullying

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