If you are a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, you are in for a treat. After all, few things beat walking down State Street after the Badgers have defeated the Minnesota Gophers. To get the most out of your undergraduate education and to document your social life, you need a smartphone or computer. If you engage in online bullying, though, you may face criminal charges.
Wisconsin law does not specifically address cyberbullying. Still, if you use an internet-enabled device to harass or intimidate someone else, Dane County prosecutors may seek to hold you accountable pursuant to other provisions in the state’s vast criminal code. Here are three possibilities.
Stalking is probably the most serious criminal charge that may come from online bullying. In Wisconsin, stalking can be a felony that is punishable by up to 42 months in prison. If you repeatedly use an online platform to intimidate, threaten or harass someone, an aggressive prosecutor may charge you with the crime.
- Unlawful use of the telephone
If you have a smartphone, there are a variety of legal ways to use it. Still, you may not use your phone to intimidate, harass, abuse or bully another person. If you do, prosecutors may charge you with a misdemeanor for unlawful use of the telephone. If you use a different electronic device, you may run afoul of a separate law. That is, prosecutors may file criminal charges for misusing computerized communications systems.
Online harassment occurs when you regularly intimidate or otherwise annoy someone through messages, posts, emails or other electronic means. Usually, harassment is a forfeiture crime that requires you to pay a fine. Still, it is possible for a prosecutor to bring misdemeanor charges for online harassment.
As a college freshman, your entire adult life stretches out ahead of you. As you likely know, a criminal record may make achieving your academic, professional and other goals more difficult. By understanding how online bullying may cause you legal trouble, you can better plan for avoiding criminal charges.