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The public outcry against bullying has grown increasingly vocal. Adults, teens and children across the country are taking a stand against all forms of harassment and bullying. In a growing number of circumstances, these stands are including bringing criminal charges against the person accused of being a bully. Many people who are charged with bullying and related infractions in California are the victims of overzealous prosecutors. Some of the so-called crimes involved in bullying are extremely difficult for District Attorneys to successfully prosecute. If you have been accused of bullying in California, then you may need to retain the services of an experienced California criminal defense attorney.
What Is Bullying?
Anti-bullying laws in California describe this crime in terms such as intimidation, harassment and discrimination. Cyberbullying, or bullying done through electronic means, is also included under anti-bullying laws. These laws also define certain classes of people against which it is illegal to discriminate. Protected classes include race, religion, gender expression, nationality, sexual orientation, disability and gender. A person may be guilty of harassment if they attack someone else on the basis of any of these items. This means that the defendant is accused of annoying, provoking or even threatening the other person. Anything that they deliberately do that may cause emotional distress to another individual may constitute bullying.
What About Cyberbullying?
Before the advent of the Internet, most bullying took place in person, such as between two students in a school cafeteria. However, modern young people have considerable contact with one another in cyber space through social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They also have email, smart phones and instant messaging programs on computers. The Internet and the prevalence of technology has meant a proliferation of opportunities for people to harass others. Accordingly, California law has been forced to evolve to keep up with the problem of cyberbullying. If you have been accused of cyberbullying or online harassment, you need a practical, experienced criminal defense attorney representing your interests in court.
California Criminal Cyberbullying
California anti-bullying laws divide online bullying into two major categories. These are posting information with the intent to incite fear and use of an electronic device for the purposes of harassment. In the first category, a defendant may be guilty of cyberbullying if they post personal, identifying items about another person or create a harassing electronic message with the intent of causing the victim to fear for their safety or to fear for the safety of those closest to them. In the second category, the defendant must use any electronic device to contact another individual and use offensive or obscene language or make a threat against the other individual. A defendant charged in either of these cyberbullying categories may be looking at a misdemeanor level penalty of no more than a year in jail and a fine of as much as $1,000.
Bullying in Los Angeles
While cyberbullying cases appear to be on the rise, there are still instances of defendants being accused of bullying in person. Under California law, bullying consists of physical and/or verbal behavior that has a detrimental effect on someone else. Accordingly, this can refer to any behavior that causes another person to be put in reasonable fear of their safety. If the bullying occurs between students, the behavior may have a detrimental effect on the victim’s academic performance or interfere with their ability or willingness to participate in educational and extra-curricular activities. Once again, it is extremely important to work with an experienced Los Angeles bullying defense lawyer if you are accused of these infractions.
Breaking Anti-Bullying Laws Can Be Difficult to Prove
Some laws only require that the District Attorney prove that the defendant actually committed the crime of which they are accused. Other crimes, such as harassment, have a higher standard. In these cases, the prosecutor must find a way to prove that the defendant actually intended to harass the alleged victim. If the defendant had no intent to harass or offend the victim, then they cannot be guilty of violating California’s anti-bullying laws.
California Education Codes
Because most instances of bullying occur within the school system it is largely left to California Education Codes to define punishments. These consequences usually consist of things like suspensions, detention and expulsions. This is because the state’s penal code doesn’t have a specific law against bullying. Accordingly, it’s more likely that a person will actually be charged with assault, making criminal threats, hate crimes, sexual battery or harassing electronic communication instead of bullying.
Experienced Los Angeles Bullying Defense Attorneys
If you or your child has been accused of bullying or other related misdemeanors, then it is imperative that you work with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. When law enforcement gets involved in these matters, it’s not unusual for things to get out of hand quickly. Sometimes the police and courts are brought into situations that should more appropriately be confined to school administrators and parents. Being involved with the courts this early in life can have a seriously detrimental effect on the future of a young person. It can put them on a path that makes it difficult for them to perform academically, to expand socially and to ultimately become a functioning, contributing member of society.
You can protect your child’s future by working with the California bullying defense lawyers at this firm. Contact us to learn more.