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Cyberbullying in Arizona and the Law

The internet is often seen as a virtual reality, but it is a reality nonetheless. The activities that take place online can have serious legal ramifications. Any form of an online threat, harassment, or bullying is considered cyberbullying and may result in legal action, including a criminal record. As per Arizona State Legislature 13-2921 (A), a person commits harassment if, with intent to harass or with knowledge that the person is harassing another person, the person: 1. Anonymously or otherwise contacts, communicates or causes a communication with another person by verbal, electronic, mechanical, telegraphic, telephonic or written means in a manner that harasses.

Computer used for cyberbullying

Cyberbullying on a computer

According to the Arizona Attorney General, “kids and teens no longer need muscles to bully and torment their peers,” adding that “some young people use websites, cell phones, instant messaging, chat rooms, blogs and social networking sites as options to harass, threaten and ridicule their peers.” Because cyberbullying is taken very seriously, and can even become an offense on your criminal record, it is vital to know what may constitute as cyberbullying.
Here are some examples to help discern between innocent joking and cyberbullying:
-Sending threatening or mean emails or messages
-Posting and/or created malicious videos, pictures, websites, and/or fake social media profiles
-Posting or sending slanderous content or rumors
-Impersonating someone else online

Consequences for Cyberbullying in Arizona

Cyberbullying in Arizona may lead to serious consequences. The consequences vary depending on the actions taken during the cyberbullying incident. For example, cyberbullying may result in the following criminal charges:

  • Hacking
  • Identity theft
  • Stalking
  • Blackmail

All of the aforementioned crimes may lead to a criminal or even a federal conviction, the punishment for which may include owing a fine, jail time, a prison sentence, and/or a criminal record. If the cyberbullying takes the form of threats including lewd act, or threats of inflicting physical harm to a person or property, the consequences may also result in legal action. Arizona State Legislature 13-2921 is not meant to infringe on 1st Amendment rights, but instead is suppose to protect individual who are victims of cyberbullying and cyberstalking. As such, “freedom of speech” does not protect those whose words are laced with malicious or deleterious intentions.

Generally, cyberbullying laws are geared toward children, addressing how school administrators should handle incidences of cyberbullying, on and off campus. If, however, the incident of cyberbullying leads to criminal action, then the person accused of cyberbullying may end up with a criminal record, or in this case juvenile record.

How to Clear a Cyberbullying Criminal Record in Arizona

While cyberbullying may make it easier to bully or harass others, it also may make it easier to catch the person doing the harassing. The internet makes it possible to trace links locating the person sending the ill-intended messages, and stores copies of evidence that can potentially incriminate the cyberbully. Cyberbullying, like a criminal record, permanently stays on the individual’s record.

Generally, once a text or an image is online, it will remain online forever and is very difficult to remove. Fortunately, unlike your cyber record, your criminal record can be expunged, which will allow you to legally deny any occurrence of the cyberbullying conviction and related case. Once your cyberbullying conviction is expunged, you can tell anyone – including potential landlords and employers – that you were not convicted of the crime. If, however, you should ever have to disclose your cyberbullying conviction, expunging your conviction will allow you to say that though you were convicted of cyberbullying that the Arizona court of law has expunged your criminal record, and thereby deemed you worthy of a second chance.

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