December 22, 2023 | Ohio Law
Cyberbullying is also known as digital harassment or e-bullying. It is bullying that takes place over electronic or digital devices, including cell phones, tablets, and computers. Cyberbullying can take the form of texts, videos, GIFs, blogs, or other online and digital media.
Ohio does not have a specific law making cyberbullying illegal. However, cyberbullying becomes a crime when it violates one of the other criminal statutes in Ohio that governs communication sent electronically.
Two Ohio statutes that encompass cyberbullying are:
Ohio Revised Code §2917.21 – Telecommunications Harassment
ORC §2917.21 makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly make or cause to be made certain telecommunications.
Prohibited telecommunications include communications that:
- Abuse, intimidate, or harass the recipient or anyone at their home
- Causes the recipient to believe the sender will cause harm to them or their property
- Describes, proposes, requests, or suggests the recipient or other person engage in sexual conduct after the recipient or someone with the recipient has requested the sender to stop contacting them
- Contains false statements about the recipient’s illness, disfigurement, injury, death, indecent conduct, reputation, or criminal conduct with the intent to harass, intimidate, threaten, or abuse the recipient
- Continues after the recipient or someone at the recipient’s location tells the sender not to contact the recipient
Cyberbullying under the telecommunications harassment statute is a first-degree misdemeanor. You could face up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 for a conviction.
Subsequent convictions of cyberbullying under this statute can be charged as fifth-degree felonies. A conviction carries up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.
Ohio Revised Code §2903.211 – Menacing by Stalking
ORC §2903.211 is often used when a person engages in two or more acts that cause someone else to believe they are going to suffer physical or mental harm. The statute also applies to threatening a member of someone’s family with physical or mental harm. The statute also applies to using electronic methods of communication to encourage others to engage in conduct that violates the statute.
Most cyberbullying charges under the menacing by stalking statute are charged as first-degree misdemeanors. The maximum sentence for a conviction is a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.
However, factors can increase the charge to a fourth-degree felony.
Aggravating factors that could result in enhanced penalties for cyberstalking include:
- The victim is younger than 18 years old
- You have a prior conviction of menacing by stalking
- You have a criminal history of violence toward the victim
- While committing the offense, you trespassed on property where the victim lives, attends school, or works
- You threatened physical harm to or against the victim
A conviction of a fourth-degree felony under this statute carries a maximum of 18 months in jail. The court can also fine you up to $5,000 for a conviction.
Efforts to Stop Cyberbullying in Ohio Schools
Ohio has anti-bullying statutes requiring school boards to adopt policies against bullying. The policies must prohibit bullying on school property and school-sponsored events. The statutes also encourage school districts to form task forces to prevent and eliminate bullying in schools.
Are There Defenses to Cyberbullying Charges in Dayton, OH?
The potential defenses to cyberbullying depend on the circumstances and facts of the case.
Some potential defenses include:
- Your behavior did not rise to the level of harassment
- You did not intend to harm anyone
- Your comments are protected by free speech
- The comments were not threatening in nature
- Mistaken identity
- False allegations by the alleged victim
A Dayton criminal defense lawyer can help you gather evidence to defend yourself against cyberbullying charges. Even though you are innocent until proven guilty, you should never trust the justice system to return a fair verdict. It is in your best interest to aggressively fight criminal charges to give yourself the best chance of avoiding a cyberbullying conviction.
Contact a Dayton Criminal Defense Attorney if You Are Charged with Cyberbullying
Do not answer questions or make a statement without an attorney present. Some individuals believe they can get out of the charges by explaining their side of the story. However, your statements could make it more difficult to mount a defense to the charges.
Instead, exercise your right to remain silent. State clearly that you want to speak with an attorney.
Do not attempt to contact the alleged victim or their family members. You cannot “work it out” by talking with the victim.
The victim cannot have the charges dropped. The prosecutor decides whether to pursue criminal charges. Therefore, your best chance of beating cyberbullying charges is to remain silent and contact a Dayton cyberbullying lawyer.
Contact the Dayton Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Dayton
130 West Second Street #17-129
Dayton, OH 45402