Cyberbullying Laws in West Virginia

Cyberbullying Laws in West Virginia

Bullying is behavior that may be punished under school policy (see below) and even criminal statutes, such as the following.

Criminal statutes

Stalking and harassment. Prosecutors may charge cyberbullying under West Virginia’s stalking and harassment law, as when the bully repeatedly bothers or threatens a victim in a way that causes reasonable mental or emotional distress, or reasonable fear of imminent injury.

Violation of this law carries a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both. However, potential fines and time behind bars increase when certain aggravating factors exist. Among such factors are prior harassment convictions and the crime taking place in violation of a restraining order. (W. Va. Ann. Code § 61-2-9a; for more on sentencing in West Virginia, see West Virginia Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and West Virginia Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.)

Unlawful telephone calls. Bullies may also face criminal charges for making unlawful telephone calls. This crime applies where someone makes telephone calls to a victim that are obscene, repeated, anonymous, or threatening toward the victim or the victim’s property. The crime of unlawful telephone calls may incur a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both. (W.Va. Ann. Code § 61-8-16.)

Unlawful computer communications. Conduct that would be criminal under the unlawful-telephone-calls law, but which occurs by way of computer or other electronic device, constitutes the offense of unlawful computer communications. This offense applies to other kinds of similar behavior, too. It carries a fine of up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both. Second and subsequent convictions incur up to $1,000 by way of fine, up to one year in jail, or both. (W.Va. Ann. Code § 61-3C-14a.)

School policies

West Virginia law requires that each county school board establish an anti-bullying policy for its schools. Each policy must contain several components. Among the necessary components are :

  • a definition of harassment, intimidation, and bullying, and a statement prohibiting such behavior
  • procedures for reporting, documenting, and responding to bullying incidents
  • procedures for protecting victims and people who report bullying, and
  • a disciplinary procedure for students who bully.

Board policies must appear in student handbooks, and in county board publications that set forth the rules and standards for school conduct. (W.Va. Ann. Code § 18-2C-3.)

Defenses to Criminal Charges

Depending on the circumstances, those who face criminal charges stemming from bullying accusations may be able to claim the following defenses or ones similar to them.

Free speech

Free speech (which includes words and related actions) is a fundamental, yet limited right under the United States Constitution. Examples of speech potentially constituting a crime are falsely yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre and comments that may qualify as terrorist threats.

The line between protected and criminal speech isn’t always clear. In a given case, a defense attorney might have a legitimate argument that alleged acts of cyberbullying really constituted legitimate speech that’s protected under the Constitution.

Reasonable reaction

Some crimes require that the victim experience a particular reaction that’s reasonable under the circumstances. For instance, West Virginia’s criminal harassment and stalking law requires that the bully’s behavior cause the victim to feel fear or mental or emotional distress, and that the fear or distress be reasonable under the circumstances. So, if the victim was hypersensitive to behavior that wouldn’t have created the required reaction in a reasonable person, then a violation of the statute hasn’t occurred.

WV State Police Junior Trooper Program

Junior Trooper Program:

Junior Troopers must be age 14 – 17 and enrolled in school. They must be nominated by either a state legislator, county school superintendent, uniformed or retired member of the state police. Once nominated candidates must then submit an essay of 250 words or less on why they want to be a Junior Trooper.

The West Virginia State Police Junior Trooper Academy’s primary purpose is to provide to students, who are interested in a career in law enforcement or a related field, a hands-on view of the West Virginia State Police. Selected students will participate in activities similar to those experiences by a West Virginia State Police Cadet.

The West Virginia State Police Junior Trooper Academy is designed to familiarize students with the West Virginia State Police and the law enforcement /criminal justice community, through relevant classroom lecture and interactive, participatory programs. It is not a disciplinary, recreational or underprivileged camp.

The Junior Trooper Academy will be held at the West Virginia State Police Academy located at Institute, West Virginia, JULY 24 – JULY 28, 2017. Candidates must be between the ages of 14 and 17. Candidates must be nominated by one of the following: an employee of the WV State Police, a member of the WV Legislature, or the school superintendent of the county in which the candidate attends school. Nominees submitted by other persons will not be considered. Only one nomination may be submitted by each nominator. The candidate is required to submit a letter of request (250 words maximum) stating the reason they believe they should be selected to attend. This letter must accompany the nomination form. Nomination forms MUST be submitted by Friday, April 14, 2017. If accepted into the program, participants will be required to submit a sports physical by a physician.

West Virginia State Police , 725 Jefferson Road, South Charleston, WV 25309 (304)746-2107 fax: 746-2281

 

WV Center for Children’s Justice: Children’s Justice Task Force

Child Abuse and neglect are community problems requiring community solutions. The WV Children’s Justice Task Force, a multi-disciplinary body of public and private agencies and individuals, is committed to the protection of children. Our mission is to identify barriers to the successful investigation, prosecution, and resolution of child abuse and neglect issues; and to educate and advocate for change.
The WV Center for Children’s Justice (WV CCJ) at the West Virginia State Police administers the federal Children’s Justice Act (CJA) grant funds for the state of West Virginia. Funds are utilized to develop innovative programs to improve the investigation, prosecuting and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases. The West Virginia CJA Task force is responsible for making recommendations to the WV DHHR, Bureau for Children and Families regarding policies, programs and funding which improve the system’s handling of these cases.

WV Center for Children’s Justice
WV State Police Academy, PDC
123 Academy Drive
Dunbar, WV 25064

(304) 766-5881