Civil Cyberbullying Case Settled

As reported in the December 28, 2011 edition of the Providence Journal, the Town of South Hadley, Massachusetts and its school department has settled a civil lawsuit with Phoebe Prince’s family. The case gained international attention after Phoebe Prince committed suicide over alleged cyberbullying by her classmates. The settlement included a payment of $225,000.00.

Pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws, 11-52-4.2, cyberstalking and cyberharassment are defined as, whoever transmits any communication by computer or other electronic device to any person or causes any person to be contacted for the sole purpose of harassing that person or his or her family. For the purpose of this section, "harassing" means any knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, or bothers the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be of a kind that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, or be in fear of bodily injury. "Course of conduct" means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of "course of conduct.

The penalties if convicted include a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

(b) A second or subsequent conviction under subsection (a) of this section shall be deemed a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than two (2) years, by a fine of not more than six thousand dollars ($6,000), or both.

Cyberstalking and cyberharassment can also be charged as domestic violence crimes. If a no contact order or restraining order is issued, such an order prohibits any and all Internet contact as well as physical contact. If a person is convicted of cyberstalking or cyberharassment and there is a restraining order already in place, the penalties include:

(a) Whenever there is a restraining order or injunction issued by a court of competent jurisdiction enjoining one person from harassing another person, and the person so enjoined is convicted of the crime as set forth in section 11-52-4.2 for actions against the person protected by the court order or injunction, he or she shall be guilty of a felony which shall be punishable by imprisonment for not more than two (2) years, or by a fine of not more than six thousand dollars ($6,000), or both.

(b) A second or subsequent conviction under subsection (a) of this section shall be punishable by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or both.

If you or a family member has been charged with cyberstalking, domestic disorderly conduct or other domestic violence crimes, please allow Attorney Robert H. Humphrey’s reputation, experience and skill to successfully guide you through the legal process. Please contact Attorney Robert H. Humphrey, Esq., at 401-816-5862 or e-mail him at rhh@rhumphreylaw.com.

Categories: Cyber Crimes