Cyberbullying Laws in Illinois

Someone who harasses another through electronic communications may be guilty of a crime in Illinois. And every school district in Illinois must develop and maintain a policy prohibiting and addressing student-on-student bullying and cyberbullying.

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

Criminal Cyberstalking

In Illinois, someone who uses an electronic device to harass another on at least two separate occasions commits the crime of cyberstalking. It is a class 4 felony under Illinois law to use an electronic communication to:

  • engage in a course of conduct that causes the target to fear for his or her safety or the safety of third person
  • engage in a course of conduct that causes the target to suffer emotional distress
  • harass the target by making a threat or placing the target or a family member in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, or confinement, or
  • solicit another person to commit a criminal act against the target.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5.)

Criminal cyberstalking in Illinois also occurs when someone creates and maintains a website that is accessible to one or more third parties for at least 24 hours and that:

  • makes harassing statements against the target
  • communicates a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, or confinement to the target or a family member
  • places the target in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, or confinement to the target or a family member, or
  • solicits another person to commit a criminal act against the target.

(720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5.)

“Course of conduct”

Illinois law defines “course of conduct” for purposes of the criminal cyberstalking law as two or more acts, including surveillance, threats, or harassing statements. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5.)

“Electronic communication”

Illinois law defines “electronic communication” for purposes of the criminal cyberstalking law to include communication via cellphone, voicemail, email, text, and instant messaging, and any other type of computer communication. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5.)

“Harassment”

Illinois law defines “harassment” for purposes of the criminal cyberstalking law as a knowing and willful course of conduct (two or more acts) directed at a specific person that “alarms, torments, or terrorizes” that person. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5.)

Interference with a Child’s School Attendance

It is a Class A misdemeanor under Illinois law for anyone to interfere with a child’s attendance at school. This offense includes interference by threats or harassment. (105 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/22-12.)

Cyberbullying Punishment

Cyberstalking is a Class 4 felony in Illinois. (720 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/12-7.5.) A person convicted of a Class 4 felony faces imprisonment of not less than one year and not more than three years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § § 5/5-4.5-45, 5/5-4.5-50.)

Interference with a child’s attendance at school through bullying is a Class A misdemeanor. (105 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/22-12.) A person convicted of a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois faces less than one year's imprisonment, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. (730 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/5-4.5-55.)

Schools

In Illinois, every public school district and each non-sectarian private elementary and secondary school must adopt and enforce an anti-bullying policy. The policy must prohibit bullying at school, including bullying through use of computers or other electronic communication devices. (105 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/27-23.7.) Schools must inform students and their parents or guardians of the policies on an annual basis.

Illinois encourages (and makes funds available for) schools to provide Internet safety education to students. (105 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/27-13.3.)

See a Lawyer

If you face criminal charges related to bullying, talk with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Only a knowledgeable lawyer can fully explain the law as it applies to your situation and give you proper legal advice.

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