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Internet Law: Electronic Stalking & Cyber-Bullying

If you are accused of calling someone names online or engaging in “cyber-bullying,” it may not seem like a big deal. After all, no one gets hurt because of words written online, right? The reality, however, is New Jersey has taken a very strong stance toward electronic stalking and cyber bullying and has imposed harsh criminal penalties for certain online behaviors.

Defendants need to know what their options are and how they can effectively fight criminal charges if they are accused of a crime as a result of their online behavior. New Jersey cybercrime lawyers at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, PA can provide you with help developing a strategic and informed response to an investigation or into formal criminal charges. Give us a call as soon as possible when you are accused of committing an online crime: 877-HELMER1.

Criminal Penalties for Cyber Bullying & Electronic Stalking

Laws on cybercrimes are relatively new in New Jersey. It was just in 2014 that a separate offense was added to New Jersey's penal code for cyber-harassment.

The crime is defined in N.J.S.A. 2C: 33-4.1 to include “making a communication in an online capacity via any electronic device or through a social networking site” with the intention of harassing the other person by:

  • Threatening to inflict any injuries or physical harm to a person or property;
  • Proposing, suggesting, requesting, or sending indecent, obscene, or lewd material with the intention to cause emotional harm; and/or
  • Threatening to commit any crime against a person, or a person's property.

The offense may be a third degree criminal offense or a fourth degree criminal offense, depending upon whether there are aggravating factors. A conviction can result in a felony record, along with a maximum of 18 months imprisonment for a fourth degree offense or a penalty of three to five years of incarceration for a third degree offense. In addition, maximum fines range between $10,000 for a fourth degree offense and $15,000 for a third degree crime.

Fighting Charges for Cyber Bullying & Electronic Stalking

With such serious penalties imposed for these crimes, it is vitally important that individuals accused of cyber bullying or online stalking do everything they can to avoid being charged or to secure a “not guilty” verdict. Defendants may try to negotiate a plea agreement, or may develop a legal defense strategy aimed at getting a case dismissed or securing a verdict of “not guilty.”

The best approach to take will depend upon the extent of the evidence and the legal arguments that can be made by the defendant against conviction. Defendants may try to argue their conduct did not rise to the level of cyber stalking, or that they did not have the intention of making threats or sending lewd or obscene material with their online communications.

There are also special penalties for minors under the age of 16 who commit this crime - the court may order that the minor, along with his or her parent or guardian, complete classes to address bad online behavior. For a child charged with cyber-harassment, exploring all possible solutions to avoid a criminal record should be of primary importance.

Determining how best to fight charges can be complicated for individuals of all ages, and defendants should have help from cybercrime lawyers who have provided representation to defendants charged under the changing laws on Internet offenses.

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