One of the current and most insidious forms of harassment is cyber bullying. It is now recognized as a serious crime in Chicago and prosecutors are highly motivated to go for those that continue doing it under the auspices of instrument number 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5. The problem with such cases is the degree of difficulty in actually proving that everything happened as the victim described. Institutions such as schools have come up with bespoke policies that are designed to manage the risks. Some local ordinances demand such measures as a prerequisite to being licensed.
Some defense attorneys have expressed concern that the zeal to prosecute may lead to a violation of the defendant’s civil liberties. What was once accepted as normal conflict between and amongst teenagers is now a crime that can land someone in jail. Others point out that the resultant criminal record is an overly excessive punishment for the crime. On the other hand, it is noted that cyber bullying can lead to serious consequences for the victim including self-harm and even suicide on some occasions.
Key Ingredients of the Crime
This is all about bullying, but bullying that is done online. The prosecutor will want to prove that there was malicious intent, but there are instances in which the court can make adverse inferences based on the behavior of the defendant. They do not have to come out and explicitly state that they have bad intentions. All that is required is a negative impact on the victim before the prosecution can proceed. At the same time, there is the challenge of victims who are too traumatized and intimidated to report the incident. That means that there is a real prospect of the defendant getting away with his or her crimes.
The state has linked the crime to cyberstalking in its key definitions. This occurs when you use the internet or any other electronic device in order to harass someone else on more than one occasion. That means that you will be committing a class 4 felony which covers any conduct that is designed to cause fear. The safety of the first degree victim is important but the standard can be met even if you make the threat about hurting a third party. For example, if you tell a mother that you are going to beat up her children, then the standard is met even if the threat was not made against the mother herself.
The statute was written in such a way as to recognize emotional distress as an indicator of a crime being committed. At the same time, the courts will accept evidence that relates to other forms of harm such as sexual assault, assault, bodily harm, and even confinement. It also takes into account the possibility that the defendant may solicit another to carry out the threat. The law has been extended to cover those who set up a website that is accessible to one or more third parties for at least 24 hours. Therefore, it is possible to fall within the ambit of the crime if you write nasty things about a person and open it up to the rest of the public. This can occur even when that person has never visited the website.
Points of Contention
The defense will typically challenge the reasonableness of the degree of apprehension felt by the victim. Therefore, paranoid assumptions that are not based on reasonable facts may lead to the case being thrown out. However, defense attorneys need to be wary of the risk of ending up attacking the vulnerable victim. One of the aggravating features is a victim who is particularly vulnerable, such as a young person, prior victim of bullying, and a member of a minority. The Sucic case has shown the possibility of the crime being linked to other offenses. If you are looking for an experienced lawyer to help you with your case, call David Freidberg Attorney at Law at 312-560-7100 today.
(image courtesy of Benjamin Voros)