Arizona has state-specific laws addressing cyberbullying, which is a misdemeanor that can be punishable by jail time and fines. In this blog, we will cover what constitutes cyberbullying in Arizona, the cyberbullying laws implemented in schools, and the penalties for a cyberbullying charge.
In Arizona, it is a crime for any person to harass another person physically or via electronic means (the Internet, social media, texting, email, instant messaging). Bullying and cyberbullying are referred to in state law as harassment or intimidation of another person, where harassment is conduct directed at a specific person that would cause them to feel “seriously alarmed, annoyed, or harassed.” Cyberbullying is taken very seriously in the state and can even become an offense on an individual’s criminal record, so it is vital to know what behavior may constitute cyberbullying.
A person commits the misdemeanor crime of harassment in Arizona by:
- communicating with another person in a harassing manner by verbal, electronic, or written means;
- following another person in a public place after being asked to stop doing so;
- repeatedly committing acts that harass another person;
- engaging in surveillance of another person for no legitimate purpose;
- making a false report about another person to a law enforcement, credit, or social services agency; or
- interfering with the delivery of any public or regulated utility (such as electricity or water) to another person.
Threat or Intimidation
Threatening or intimidating another person is also a misdemeanor crime in Arizona. An individual commits this crime by using language or conduct that conveys a threat:
- to cause physical injury or damage to another person or their property; or
- to cause, or act with reckless disregard to causing, a serious public inconvenience (such as evacuation of a building or disruption of transportation).
For example, a threatening or intimidating act that can be punished could be if a person tweets that there is a bomb threat at the local airport, causing evacuation of the facility and flight delays.
Note that if the cyberbullying takes the form of threats including lewd acts or threats of inflicting physical harm to a person or property, the consequences may result in severer legal action. Arizona’s cyberbullying law is not meant to infringe upon citizens’ 1st Amendment rights, though it is supposed to protect individuals who feel in danger from particular threats.
School Obligations Prohibiting Cyberbullying
Arizona law requires schools to enact and enforce policies that prohibit students from harassing, intimidating, and bullying other students “through the use of electronic technology, communications, networks, forums, or mailing lists” (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-341.) on the presence of school property or school buses, as well as at school-sponsored activities or events. Such policies must include:
- a procedure for students, parents, or school employees to confidentially report bullying;
- authorized forms for students, parents, or school employees to make reports;
- a requirement that school district employees report suspected bullying incidents to appropriate school officials;
- a requirement that the school provide in writing to all students at the beginning of each school year a list of rights, protections, and support services available to students;
- a requirement that the school provide this list of rights, protections, and support services to each victim of alleged bullying;
- the process for documenting bullying incidents;
- the process for investigating suspected incidents;
- the discipline that may be imposed on students found to have engaged in bullying;
- the consequences to students who submit false reports of bullying;
- procedures to protect students who are physically harmed by incidents of bullying; and
- definitions of bullying, intimidation, and harassment.
Penalties for Cyberbullying
The penalties a person convicted of any type of bullying in Arizona depends on the degree of offense charged. Generally, cyberbullying is considered a misdemeanor offense that carries up to 6 months in jai and/or fines of up to $2,500. Be aware that convictions may also include charges of blackmail, stalking, or hacking, which can lead to harsher punishment.
Facing Cyberbullying Charges in Yuma, AZ?
Especially with the increasing presence of unregulated technology in children’s hands, cyberbullying charges have become more and more prevalent. While one person might consider their behavior in good fun, another might feel offended or threatened by what they’ve posted online, such as a fake social media platform or slanderous rumors. If your child is facing cyberbullying charges in Yuma, Arizona, contact Bowman, Smith & Kallen, P.L.L.C. for legal guidance today.
Speak with our firm at Bowman, Smith & Kallen, P.L.L.C. to schedule a free consultation today.