One of the many actions that fall under the category of a harassment offense is cyberbullying. Florida is one of the few states that not only has a harassment statute, but also clearly gives a definition for cyberbullying itself. Under Florida's Stat. Ann. § 784.048 and § 1006.147, the key terms are as follows:
Harassment: this refers to actions that lack a valid intent, target someone, and inflict significant distress on that targeted individual (such as stalking).
Cyberbullying: this is simply described as bullying that uses any form of electronic or technological messages, anything from emails to faxes, social media to blogs, and more.
While cyberbullying is not outlined as its own offense with distinct penalties, cyberstalking is addressed in stalking statutes. If someone is convicted of harassment through cyberbullying, this could be either a misdemeanor or a felony conviction.
If someone is convicted of misdemeanor cyberbullying, this could entail:
- 1 year in jail, and / or
- A $1,000 fine
If someone is convicted of a felony offense of cyberbullying, this could mean:
- Five years in prison, and /or
- A $5,000 fine
What is the difference between misdemeanor and felony cyberbullying?
This offense becomes a felony when the person makes a believable threat. What makes a threat believable? This would be a threat issued through words or actions that makes the targeted person rationally feel that his or her wellbeing, or the safety of loved ones, is endangered. A person who perceives a threat will be considered rational if the suspect who issued the threat seemed to be able to follow through on the threat, and to have desire to do so.
Have you been charged with cyberbullying or cyberstalking?
This is an area of law that has seen recent changes, and will continue to see changes. In this uncertain legal environment, where your future is on the line, you can turn to Thomas & Paulk, P.A. to discuss your case with a Tampa criminal defense lawyer for free. Don't hesitate to call us today!