HIB – Cyberbullying

New Jersey legislation is focused on creating regulatory policies and procedures that support the prevention, reporting, and remediation of harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB). The legislation has provided schools and districts with information on how to create and adhere to policies and procedures that respond to HIB.

If a child is found responsible for committing a HIB offense, they can be disciplined by their school and criminally punished by their state. When your child is accused of HIB, it is important you hire a skilled criminal attorney as soon as possible. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understands how overwhelming these accusations can be for parents, especially when they seem out of left field. To ensure your child's due process rights are being upheld and that they have a fair chance at defending themselves, call 888-535-3686 or schedule a consultation online. Our competent and experienced attorneys can help.

How New Jersey Law Defines Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is an offshoot of HIB. HIB is defined as:

  • Any action, communication, or gesture, whether verbal, written, physical, or electronic, that is inspired by an actual or perceived characteristic of the victim;
  • The incident or incidents must occur on school property, at a school-sponsored activity, or on the school bus; and
  • It must be done knowing that it will physically or emotionally harm the victim, damage their property, or place them in reasonable fear of harm for themselves or their property or
  • Behavior that is insulting or demeaning to any person that causes a substantial disruption of the school's orderly operation.

Cyberbullying is typically defined the same as bullying, but with the caveat that the action, communication, or gesture is done using a computer, cellphone, or other electronic device. Under New Jersey law, cyberbullying is defined as:

  • Making one or more electronic communications via an electronic device, online, or through social networking sites, that –
    • threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to the other person;
    • intentionally sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes obscene or lewd material to or about a person with the intent to emotionally harm them or place them in fear of physical or emotional harm; or
    • threatens to commit any crime against the person or their property.

If a child over the age of sixteen is accused of cyberbullying, they could be facing a third or fourth-degree crime.

The Importance of "Intent" in Any Cyberbullying Case

Within the definition of cyberbullying is the distinction that the act must be done with the intent of harming the other person, either by putting them in actual danger, threatening them in some way, or placing them in fear of being hurt or having their property damaged.

Essentially, if the act or behavior were accidental and not deliberate, it would not fall under the definition of cyberbullying. Thus, the number one defense for cyberbullying is showing that there was no intent to harm the other person. If the prosecution cannot prove intent, the charges will be dismissed.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will review the accusations against your child and the prosecution's proposed evidence to craft a strategic defense that guarantees the best possible outcome for their case.

Potential Defenses Against Cyberbullying Charges

As we explained above, cyberbullying requires intent, so a criminal attorney's first defense strategy will be to prove there was no intent. Other possible defenses include:

  • Proving the actions or behavior did not involve electronic communications or devices. If no electronic communication or device was involved, the actions do not fall under the crime of cyberbullying.
  • The electronic communication did not involve a threat of physical harm to the person or their property, nor was it done to cause emotional harm to the person.
  • The electronic communication did not involve a request, suggestion, proposition, comment, post, or sending of lewd, obscene, or inappropriate material.
  • Showing that this was a singular incident, not a repetitive behavior. Cyberbullying and bullying require that the behavior is ongoing, not one-off incidents.

For example, if a female student is being accused of cyberbullying after requesting a lewd photo of another female student. Then, upon investigation, law enforcement discovered the female defendant was simply asking the alleged victim for a picture of the bikini she was going to wear to the beach later that week; the cyberbullying charges would have to be dropped.

Moreover, if a student is accused of cyberbullying after posting about another student or teacher in a way that was intended to hurt them, a skilled defense attorney may still be able to get the charges dropped by showing this was a one-time event.

Possible Punishments for Cyberbullying

In New Jersey, if the individual being accused of cyberbullying is over the age of 16, they will typically be charged with a fourth-degree offense, which carries a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and $10,000 in fines. However, if the defendant is over 21, they can be charged with a third-degree cyberbullying crime, which carries a sentence of three to five years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.

In addition to the criminal punishments resulting from a cyberbullying charge, the school could also discipline the student. According to the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights, all schools in New Jersey must create and implement policies and procedures for dealing with harassment, intimidation, and bullying. One of the policies stipulates that any harassment, intimidation, or bullying grants the school cause to suspend or expel the student.

To ensure your child is not being unnecessarily punished by their school and law enforcement, you must immediately contact an experienced criminal attorney. While criminal cases differ from school disciplinary proceedings, both carry significant consequences that can seriously alter your child's life. For example, students accused of cyberbullying and suspended or expelled must explain those punishments in future applications. Thus, when they apply to college, they will have to explain the incident that gave rise to the punishment, which could inhibit the college from accepting them.

Additionally, suspensions and expulsions for students in elementary, middle, or high school can prevent them from keeping pace academically with their classmates. When students begin to fall behind, especially for behavioral misconduct, it can actually make them act out worse in the future. Not only that, but it will significantly impact their self-esteem, confidence, and mental health. This means that children who are accused of cyberbullying by the school can develop severe anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions that will limit their ability to succeed later on.

These emotional and mental conditions are only exacerbated for students who are placed in juvenile delinquency centers or state or federal prisons after being found guilty of cyberbullying. If you want to protect your child from such harsh possibilities, it is essential you work with a skilled criminal attorney. The Lento Law Firm will be able to use its experience to try to get your child's case or disciplinary hearing dismissed prior to being seen by the school or a judge.

Other Criminal that May Be Related to Cyberbullying

If your child is charged with a cyberbullying crime in New Jersey, they could also be charged with one of the following crimes:

How the Lento Law Firm Can Help

When your child is accused of cyberbullying, it can feel overwhelming. You may not know where to turn or who to ask for help. But it's important to hire an attorney the moment you learn of the cyberbullying accusations.

Cyberbullying charges can have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences for even the best student. Not only can they prevent your child from attending their college of choice, but they force your child to endure several years of imprisonment and significant fines. Even just being accused of cyberbullying can negatively impact their reputation, limit their future employment prospects, lower their earning power, and stigmatize future family law proceedings.

The Lento Law Firm has spent years helping students throughout New Jersey build defenses against harassment, intimidation, and bullying cases, including cyberbullying. They understand the intricacies of these charges and are uniquely qualified to help your child in the courtroom and during school disciplinary hearings.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will:

  • Develop a strong defense strategy on your child's behalf.
  • Gather relevant evidence and witness testimony supporting their defense and refuting the prosecution's cyberbullying claim.
  • Complete all legal paperwork and file claims in a timely and organized manner.
  • Negotiate with law enforcement, the prosecution, and judges to get the best possible outcome for your child's case.

Furthermore, if your child is accused of cyberbullying and then forced to attend a disciplinary hearing at their school, the Lento Law Firm can prepare a defense on their behalf. Call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online. Our competent team of criminal law attorneys is here to help.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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