It’s estimated that 1 in every 5 students is bullied at some point in their lives. But at what point does bullying become a crime? Can a person be arrested for bullying in Florida?
There are bullying and cyberbullying statutes in Florida. However, those pertain mostly to public school district standards and responses to student bullying, both on and off campus. F.S. 1006.147 sets expectations for school districts to be proactive in preventing bullying and responding swiftly and decisively when bullying is reported. That response can include school-imposed discipline, such as suspension or even expulsion.
The conduct outlined in that statute includes things like teasing, social exclusion, and public embarrassment. Such acts aren’t kind – but they aren’t necessarily criminal.
Other acts, such as threats, intimidation, stalking, physical violence, harassment and theft – these ARE criminal. A person accused of bullying using these tactics would be charged under the appropriate statute that correlates to the act.
For example, a person accused of harassment or stalking via texts, emails, or social media may be accused of cyberstalking, as outlined in F.S. 784.048. A charge of cyberbullying in Florida requires proof that the accused engaged in a course of conduct to communicate with someone (directly or indirectly) with the intention to cause substantial emotional distress with no legitimate purpose. It usually involves classmates, acquaintances, former friends or prior intimate partners. Occasionally, it can involve strangers.
Cyberstalking is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail. However, it could be a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, if the victim is under 16, a credible threat of harm is made or there’s an active restraining order against the accused. Continue reading