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Computer and internet crimes: Is cyberbullying a crime?

In Michigan, there are penalties for every crime. However, when it comes to computer and internet crimes, there seem to be some gray areas. Cyberbullying, is typically defined as harassing or intimidating behavior on the internet, including posting threatening messages in a public forum. It is something that gives rise to concern. News headlines have reported several cases of children who committed suicide after they were the victims of such bullying.

While several other states have laws against it, Michigan is awaiting the response of the Senate on a bill that was approved by the state House of Representatives in March. The bill would make cyberbullying a crime. Misdemeanors would be punishable by a $500 fine and 93 days behind bars. If the cyberbullying caused severe harm, it could rise to a felony, subject to a fine of $5,000 and a prison sentence of five years. This would increase to 10 years and $10,000 if the cyberbullying resulted in death.

Currently, bullying that is committed over electronic devices cannot be prosecuted in Michigan. However, 38 other states have existing laws against cyberbullying. The bill presented to the House in March was approved 91-17 by lawmakers, and if the Senate follows suit, it will be the first time Michigan criminal statutes will address threatening behavior on the internet.

Anyone who is accused of computer and internet crimes may have questions about their legal rights. Penalties could be more severe in online crimes than those that are already covered by Michigan criminal laws. However the technicalities of the evidence make defending these crimes more challenging. For that reason, it will be a good idea to secure the services of an experienced attorney to handle the criminal defense.

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