“Can I Be Arrested for Bullying in Florida?” Broward Defense Lawyer Has Answers.

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?

Short answer is: Yes, you can be arrested for bullying in Florida. However, the charge that is filed will not be for “bullying.”Florida bullying arrest Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney

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.

Cyberstalking is also the charge that’s been filed in cases against acquaintances and/or classmates who have bullied other classmates who then committed suicide. Children has young as 12 have been charged with cyberstalking for this reason.

Another charge that commonly stems from cases of alleged bullying are assault and battery.

Assault, as detailed in F.S. 784.011, is an intentional and unlawful threat made through word or deed against another person. A conviction requires proof that not only was a threat made, but convincing evidence the defendant had the apparent ability to carry out the threat to the extent the alleged victim had a well-founded fear of imminent violence. It does not require physical contact.

Battery, on the other hand, does require physical contact, as spelled out in F.S. 784.03. It involves the actual and intentional touching or hitting of another person against their will or intentionally causing bodily harm to another person.

Both offenses are misdemeanors, but aggravating factors such as the presence of a weapon or causing serious bodily harm to someone can bump it up to a felony.

Assault and battery have been the primary charges filed in several cases across Florida of middle school and high school students depicted on cell phone camera videos that later went viral. Cell phone video evidence is used in an increasing number of criminal cases against minors and young adults.

Another increasingly common charge filed is sexual cyberharassment. Also sometimes referred to as “the revenge porn law,” this involves sharing or publishing sexually explicit images of a person without their consent. This can also include AI-generated images (known as “deep fakes”) that don’t depict the actual person. These offenses can be either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances.

If your child has been arrested for bullying-related offenses in Florida, it is important to take their defense seriously. Do not presume that because they are a minor that this will not have life-long consequences for them. It’s possible prosecutors will charge them as adults. There are ways for youth to “learn their lesson” without getting caught up in the criminal justice system. Our dedicated Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can help.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Bullying Statistics By the Numbers, Pacer.org

More Blog Entries:

How Serious is a Sexual Cyberharassment Arrest in Florida? Feb. 25, 2024, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Contact Information