Cyberbullying Laws in Arkansas

Cyberbullying is not only harmful, it can also cross the line to criminal conduct.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 12/05/2023

While bullying has always been particularly problematic among teenagers, cyberbullying—bullying that occurs in an electronic format—can be even more harmful. With the widespread use of social media and messaging, this problem may be the most dangerous form of bullying to date. What some might not realize is that it can also be a crime.

Is Cyberbullying a Crime in Arkansas?

Yes. In fact, Arkansas law has several crimes that prohibit acts relating to cyberbullying, whether the acts take place online, over social media, via text or email, by computer, smartphone or smart device, or through another electronic form of communication. These offenses include cyberbullying, harassing communications, stalking, and doxing minors on social media. Many of these offenses are misdemeanors. However, severe acts of cyberbullying or doxing against a minor younger than 18 can result in felony charges.

What Are the Penalties for Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment in Arkansas?

Below are the penalties for crimes relating to acts of cyberbullying and cyber harassment in Arkansas.

Penalties for Cyberbullying

Arkansas has a criminal law specific to cyberbullying, which makes it a crime to:

  • send or post an electronic communication
  • meant to frighten, coerce, intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass another person, and
  • done in furtherance of severe, repeat, or hostile behavior towards that person.

Cyberbullying is a Class B misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days of jail time and a $1,000 fine. If the victim is a school employee, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a year of jail time and a $2,500 fine.

(Ark. Code § 5-71-217 (2023).)

Penalties for Harassing Communications

Arkansas law covers an even broader range of harassing behavior committed via oral, written, or electronic communications. Under the state's harassing and unlawful computerized communications laws, it's a Class A misdemeanor to communicate a message intending to:

  • harass, annoy, or alarm another, or
  • frighten, intimidate, or distress another without a legitimate purpose.

These laws pertain to:

  • messages that are likely to cause annoyance, alarm, fear, intimidation, or distress in a reasonable person
  • threats of unlawful acts (including bodily harm or property damage), and
  • obscene, lewd, or profane messages.

Violations under both laws are Class A misdemeanors.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-41-108, 5-71-209 (2023).)

Penalties for Cyberstalking

Repeated acts of cyberbullying or harassment can lead to stalking charges if the conduct would make a reasonable person fear for their own or another's safety.

Stalking is a Class A misdemeanor unless the defendant makes threats that place another in fear of death or serious bodily injury. In this case, stalking is a Class C felony, punishable by 3 to 10 years of prison time.

(Ark. Code § 5-71-229 (2023).)

Penalties for Doxing a Minor on Social Media

Cyberbullying or doxing a minor on social media can result in criminal charges if the posts or communications cause the minor to be reasonably afraid of physical harm. Cyberbullying is defined above. Doxing involves maliciously publishing private or identifying information online about a particular person.

Penalties for doxing a minor range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony depending on the consequences of the crime.

  • Doxing that results in the minor's death or loss of $1,000,000 or more is a Class B felony, punishable by 5 to 20 years of prison time.
  • Doxing that results in physical injury to the minor or loss of $10,000 to $999,999 is a Class C felony, punishable by 3 to 10 years of prison time.
  • Doxing that results in a loss of $500 to $9,999 is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 6 years of prison time.
  • All other doxing offenses are Class A misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines.

This law responds to severe acts of cyberbullying or doxing that have resulted in victims' severe emotional distress, suicide, or attempted suicide.

(Ark. Code § 5-27-610 (2023).)

Defenses to Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking Charges in Arkansas

Common defenses to charges of harassment or stalking include claiming that free speech protections apply or establishing that a victim's reaction was unreasonable.

Free speech. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression, but this protection is not absolute. Speech that poses an immediate threat to others is not protected. Nonviolent and non-threatening speech or conduct is generally protected even if it's unpopular or offensive to others. The line between protected speech and unprotected speech can be a fine one and may be worth exploring as a defense if there's ambiguity.

Unreasonable reaction. Arkansas' general harassment and stalking laws require proof that the victim's fearful reaction was reasonable. If a victim had a hypersensitive reaction to the conduct involved, a defendant may have a defense that the prosecution cannot meet its burden of proving all the elements of the crime. For instance, being upset over a rude and nasty comment does not rise to the level of reasonably fearing for one's safety.

Are Teenagers in Arkansas Tried in Juvenile or Criminal Court?

Teens younger than 18 generally fall under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court in Arkansas. Juvenile court judges tend to have more options to punish a juvenile offender than they do in adult court.

Juvenile delinquency court. If adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court, the judge can order individual or family counseling, treatment or programming, probation, home detention, driver's license suspension, detention, or removal from the home, among other options. A first-time offender might qualify for diversion, which allows for treatment and programming but doesn't result in a court adjudication.

Adult criminal court. A teenager aged 18 or 19 will face charges in adult court. While sentencing alternatives are also available in adult court, so is jail or prison time.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing an investigation or charges for cyberbullying, talk to a criminal defense attorney. For charges in juvenile court, be sure to find an attorney who practices in the area of juvenile delinquency.

Talk to a Defense attorney
We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you