Cyber-harassment could soon be a crime in New Jersey.  A new bill sponsored by State Senator Donald Norcross would make cyber-harassment a crime.  Norcross said the legislation comes in response from a request from state prosecutors who it established as a crime so they can punish people who threaten others on social media sites or in emails.

"This bill is specifically about threats to people or their property online.  The laws that are here today will apply online so you can no longer hide behind a name on a computer," said Norcross.

When is it considered cyber-harassement?

According to the bill, it's when someone is online with the purpose to harass another.  This would include:

  • threatens to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person
  • sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests, or proposes any lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person
  • threatens to commit any crime against the person or the person’s property

Times are changing said Norcross. Harassment today is different from the harassment many adults knew of as kids.

"It used be if two kids were having an argument on a playground it pretty much stayed there or within a small group," said Norcross. "Once things go online, email is forever. Emails don't disappear."

Under the legislation, cyber-harassment is a crime of the fourth degree, which is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000 or both. However, if the offender is over the age of 21 at the time of the offense and impersonates a minor for the purpose of cyber-harassing a minor, cyber-harassment is a crime of the third degree. A crime of the third degree is punishable by three to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $15,000 or both.

If a minor under the age of 16 is convicted of cyber-harassment, the court may order as a condition of the sentence that the minor complete a program to learn about cyber-harassment.