Recently Attorney Robert H. Humphrey was interviewed by reporter Abbey Niezgoda on channel 6 evening news regarding the abduction of a thirteen (13) year old Portsmouth girl by a New Jersey man who met her online. The teenager was located in the man's apartment, in New Jersey, a day after she was reported missing. The man has been charged with transporting a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity before the Federal Court. As discussed by Attorney Humphrey, with the emergence of the Internet, an entirely new form of social interaction was created. While Internet connectivity has many positive social benefits, it also has a dark side, as was most recently demonstrated in the Portsmouth teen abduction case. Cyber crimes are crimes committed through the use of a computer or similar types of electronic devices including cell phones.
Through his lectures, Attorney Humphrey has attempted to educate students of all ages regarding the dangers of cyber crimes. Cyberbullying is defined as when "the Internet, cell phone or other devices are used to send or post texts or images intended to hurt or embarrass another child." By this definition, cyberbullying only refers to minors and it is a growing problem in middle schools and high schools. Cyberbullying is most prevalent among girls, as both victims and bullies. Cyberbullying does not refer to adults whose similar actions are categorized cyberharassment.
Pursuant to Rhode Island Law, cyberharassment or cyberstalking is prohibited and is 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." Cyberharassment is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one (1) year imprisonment or up to a $500.00 fine or both.
Another area of growing concern is sexting, which is generally defined as sending sexually-explicit photos, images and/or videos electronically. Sexting is only illegal when the sender or the recipient is a minor. Young people need to understand that even if both participants in sexting are minors, it could still result in severe penalties before the Family Court. If one of the participants involved in sexting is an adult and the other participant is a minor, that could result in charges being brought under Rhode Island's child pornography statute.
The goal of the Law Offices of Robert H. Humphrey is to teach individuals of all ages regarding the dangers of cyber crimes so that we may avoid more cases like the Portsmouth teen abduction case. For more information, please see Attorney Humphrey's article entitled Cyber Crimes: Bullying, Stalking, Sexting & Texting published in the March/April 2011 edition of the Rhode Island Bar Journal.