Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking Laws in Oklahoma

A person who commits cyberbullying or cyberstalking in Oklahoma can face serious criminal charges, including felony charges.

By , Attorney · University of Houston Law Center
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 19, 2024

Young people have always encountered bullying, but cyberbullying—bullying that occurs in an electronic format—has become more prevalent than ever before. This phenomenon is more common due to the universal use of social media sites, such as TikTok and Snapchat, and messaging as integral parts of social interaction among teens. What many don't realize is that cyberbullying can lead to criminal charges.

What Laws Prohibit Cyberbullying and Cyberstalking in Oklahoma?

A person who engages in cyberbullying can face charges for obscene, threatening, or harassing electronic communications or stalking. These crimes can occur online and through electronic communications, such as email, texting, and social media applications. In certain situations, the penalties for conviction carry the potential of incarceration time. Penalties range from misdemeanors to serious felonies.

What Are the Penalties for Obscene, Threatening, or Harassing Electronic Communications in Oklahoma?

Cyberbullying can be charged under Oklahoma's threatening electronic communications law when a defendant communicates online or electronically and willfully does any of the following:

  • makes obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, or indecent comments
  • intends to place another in fear of physical harm or death or threatens harm to their person or property
  • intends to terrify, intimidate, or harass another
  • anonymously reaches out to a person with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass them, or
  • conspires with others to repeatedly make or send communications solely to harass the receiver.

This crime includes a wide variety of abusive behaviors and can involve (but is not limited to) communications done via a computer, cellphone, or wireless device.

Sending an obscene, threatening, or harassing electronic communication constitutes a misdemeanor, which incurs penalties of up to one year in jail and a $500 fine. Offenders who commit second and subsequent offenses of this provision face a felony conviction and up to two years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1172 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Cyberstalking in Oklahoma?

The crime of stalking occurs when an offender willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses a person to the point that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and the behavior causes that reaction in the victim. Following can include monitoring a person using GPS or other tracking devices. Harassment can occur in person, online, or through electronic communications.

Stalking is a felony. A first stalking conviction carries up to three years of prison time and a $5,000 fine. Second convictions increase the possible penalties to six years' incarceration and a $10,000 fine. Any subsequent conviction can mean up to 12 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Penalties increase even more for offenses that violate a court order prohibiting stalking or contact with the victim (such as a protective or restraining order or condition of probation or parole) or when a defendant serves prison time and commits another stalking violation after being released. Depending on the circumstances and whether the defendant targets the same victim, the maximum penalties can range from 15 to 25 years in prison.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1173 (2024).)

Defenses to Criminal Charges for Cyberbullying or Cyberstalking in Oklahoma

As discussed above, cyberbullying and cyberstalking may be criminally prosecuted under several state laws. Depending on the charge, one or more defenses may apply to each case, including the following.

Free Speech

Free speech is a fundamental yet limited right protected by the U.S. Constitution. The government can punish speech (words and related actions) when it is likely to be immediately dangerous to others. Examples are falsely yelling "fire!" in a crowded theatre and issuing what are sometimes referred to as terrorist threats. The line between protected and illegal speech isn't always clear, meaning that it may be appropriate under certain circumstances to explore a free-speech defense.

Unreasonable Reaction

As explained above, stalking requires that the cyberbully's behavior cause a victim to reasonably fear for their safety. In other words, if the victim was hypersensitive to behavior that would not have bothered an average, reasonable person, the behavior in question is unlikely to legally qualify as stalking. Because of this reasonable fear requirement, a defendant may be acquitted of these charges if their actions were not serious enough to bother a reasonable person in the victim's position.

Will Teenagers Facing Criminal Charges Go to Juvenile or Adult Court in Oklahoma?

Both minors and adults can be charged with cyberbullying or stalking, but they will be prosecuted in different courts based on their ages at the time of the offense. Teenagers who committed the offense when they were 18 or 19 will face charges in adult criminal court. Juveniles ages 17 and younger fall under the jurisdiction of the state's juvenile justice system.

Juvenile court judges generally have more discretion than adult court judges in sentencing, as the juvenile justice system focuses more on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Within the juvenile system, sentencing options may include counseling, community service or work program, educational program, or detention in a juvenile facility. In juvenile court, the minor receives an adjudication of delinquency rather than a criminal conviction.

(Okla. Stat. tit. 10A, § 2-1-103 (2024).)

State-Mandated School Anti-Bullying Policies in Oklahoma

Under Oklahoma's School Safety and Bullying Prevention Act, each school district's board of education must adopt policies and procedures to prevent and address bullying, including cyberbullying. The rules need to define bullying and contain procedures for reporting, investigating, documenting, and responding to alleged instances of bullying (including notifying a victim's parents and reporting criminal behavior to law enforcement).

Civil Remedies for Cyberbullying in Oklahoma

As discussed above, cyberbullying can be handled through school policy, in criminal court, or both. And in addition to these consequences, cyberbullies can also face a civil lawsuit or be subject to a protective order.

Civil lawsuits allow victims of bullying to potentially recover monetary damages for the emotional, social, or financial harm caused by a cyberbully. For example, a judge can order bullies to pay money to offset the cost of therapy for the emotional trauma caused to the victim or to pay for property damage caused by the crime.

Stalking victims can also go to civil court to request protective orders prohibiting a person from harassing, stalking, or contacting the victim. A violation of this type of order leads to criminal charges.

Talk to a Lawyer

Cyberbullying and cyberstalking can incur serious fines and substantial incarceration time for a guilty defendant. If you've been arrested for or charged with a related crime, contact a local criminal defense attorney. A qualified lawyer can give you sound legal advice and recommend the best course of action for the unique circumstances of your case.

Similarly, you may be able to recover money damages if you've been a victim of these types of offenses. A lawyer can advise you about the potential civil causes of action that might apply to your case.

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