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Cyberbullying Can Have Criminal Consequences in Illinois

Posted on in Criminal Law
Cyberbullying Can Have Criminal Consequences in IllinoisPeople going through adolescence are still learning the appropriate way to interact with and treat other people. Because of their immaturity, some children engage in harassing or bullying behavior. The ubiquitousness of digital communications has created a subcategory of bullying known as cyberbullying. A teenager who engages in cyberbullying may face more than school discipline if caught. Illinois classifies cyberbullying as a criminal offense, and a teen accused of cyberbullying can end up in court.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying falls under Illinois’ law against cyberstalking, which is electronic communication that causes victims emotional distress or to fear for their safety. Cyberstalking can take many forms, including:

  • Unwelcome personal messages of a violent or sexual nature;
  • Targeting someone through social media;
  • Creating or maintaining a website dedicated to harassing a victim; or
  • Using digital communications to violate the privacy or security of the victim.

Why Is Cyberbullying a Crime?

People who instigate or participate in cyberbullying may believe that they are having innocent fun and have no intention of following through on any threats. However, cyberbullying can have real-life consequences if it affects the behavior of the target. A student may stop attending school out of fear of ridicule. In a few cases, cyberbullying targets have committed suicide. Cyberbullying can be more damaging than in-person bullying because:

  • It can be public;
  • It may encourage others may gang up on the target;
  • The bullying content is immediate and often permanent; and
  • The bullies can be anonymous, making it difficult to stop them.

What Are the Penalties for Cyberbullying?

Illinois identifies cyberstalking as a class 4 felony, which is punishable by one to three years in prison and a fine of as much as $25,000. There is a separate charge for interfering with a child’s school attendance as a result of cyberbullying. This is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by less than a year in prison and a fine of as much as $2,500.

Contact a Wheaton Juvenile Defense Attorney

If your child is accused of cyberbullying, you should first determine whether your child is actually responsible for the communications. If he or she is responsible, you can question whether the communications could have reasonably caused the victim to become distressed or to fear for his or her safety. An adolescent will not face imprisonment if found guilty of cyberbullying, but the consequences should focus more on teaching proper behavior than punishing your child. A DuPage County juvenile defense attorney at Stephen A. Brundage, Attorney at Law, can protect your child from overly punitive measures in a juvenile court. To schedule a consultation, call 630-260-9647.


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