Cyberbullying Laws in Arizona

Cyberbullying, or using electronic media to harass another person, is a crime in Arizona. In addition, Arizona law requires schools to develop and enforce policies to deal with student-on-student bullying and cyberbullying.

This article discusses cyberbullying laws in Arizona. For information about cyberbullying in general, see our article, Teen Cyberbullying and Harassment.

What is Cyberbullying in Arizona?

Arizona law makes it a crime for any person to harass another person and includes harassment done via electronic means (such as telephone, the Internet, social media sites, texting, email, instant messages, or other similar means).

Under Arizona law, bullying and cyberbullying are referred to as harassment and threatening or intimidating another person. Arizona law defines harassment as conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to be “seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed” and that, in fact, does have that effect on the person targeted. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-2921.)

Harassment

A person commits the misdemeanor crime of harassment in Arizona by:

  • communicating with another person in a manner that is harassing by verbal, electronic, or written means
  • follows another person in a public place after being asked to stop doing so
  • repeatedly commits acts that harass another person
  • engages in surveillance of another person for no legitimate purpose
  • makes a false report about another person to a law enforcement, credit, or social services agency, or
  • interferes with the delivery of any public or regulated utility (such as electricity or water) to another person.

(Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-2921.)

Threatening or intimidating another

Threatening or intimidating another person is also a misdemeanor crime in Arizona. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-1202.) A person commits this crime by using language or conduct that conveys a threat:

  • to cause physical injury or damage to another person or his or her property, or
  • to cause, or act with reckless disregard to causing, a serious public inconvenience (such as evacuation of a building, or disruption of transportation).

(Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-1202.) An example of the second type of threat and intimidation would occur where a person tweeted that there was a bomb threat at the local airport, causing evacuation of the facility and flight delays.

Aggravated harassment

The crime of harassment is increased to the felony crime of aggravated harassment where a person engages in the conduct described above under misdemeanor harassment and:

  • a court has issued an injunctive or other protective order that is valid and still in effect against the person where the order concerns the victim of the conduct
  • the accused has previously been convicted of domestic abuse (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3601), or
  • the target of the harassment was the victim of a previous offense by the accused harasser.

(Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-2921.01.)

How is Cyberbullying Punished in Arizona?

The penalty a person convicted of any type of bullying in Arizona depends upon the degree of offense charged.

Harassment and Threatening or Intimidating Conduct

The penalty for misdemeanor harassment is a maximum sentence of six months in jail, a fine of $2,500, or both. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 13-707, 13-802.) The penalty for misdemeanor threatening or intimidating conduct is a maximum sentence of six months, a fine of $2,500, or both. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 13-707, 13-802.)

Aggravated harassment

The penalty for felony aggravated harassment is a sentence of a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years in prison, a fine of $150,000, or both. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 13-702, 13-801.) A person convicted of a second offense of aggravated harassment faces a minimum sentence of four months and a maximum sentence of one year and six months, a fine of $150,000, or both. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 13-702, 13-801.)

Obligation of Schools

Arizona law requires schools to enact and enforce policies and procedures that prohibit students from harassing, intimidating, and bullying other students on school property or school buses, and at school-sponsored activities or events “through the use of electronic technology, communications, networks, forums, or mailing lists. (Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-341.)

Such policies must include:

  • a procedure for students, parents, or school employees to confidentially report bullying
  • authorized forms for students, parents, or school employees to use to make reports
  • a requirement that school district employees report suspected bullying incidents to appropriate school officials,
  • a requirement that the school provide in writing to all students at the beginning of each school year a list of rights, protections, and support services available to students
  • a requirement that the school provide this list of rights, protections, and support services to each victim of alleged bullying
  • the process for documenting bullying incidents
  • the process for investigating suspected incidents
  • the discipline that may be imposed on students found to have engaged in bullying
  • the consequences to students who submit false reports of bullying
  • procedures to protect students who are physically harmed by incidents of bullying, and
  • definitions of bullying, intimidation, and harassment.

(Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-341.)

Talk to an Attorney

If you or someone you know has experienced cyberbullying or any form of harassment, consult with a lawyer in your area who has experience in criminal and/or education law. If you or someone you know is accused of cyberbullying or a related offense, see an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

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