In the era of technology, it's safe to say that the majority of college students use at least one social media site to communicate. For many students, interacting on social media has become an integral part of their daily routine. However, with the freedom to be whoever you want and say whatever you want on an internet platform, comes the opportunity to say things that could potentially get students in trouble.
A seemingly minuscule spat between friends on Facebook, for example, can have serious legal ramifications if an internet threat is made by a college student. Even though most people aren't penalized for doing so, making a criminal threat against another person is a crime in every state, even if this threat is made from behind the screen of a phone or computer. In the event that a perceived threat is reported and criminal charges are filed, a student's entire academic and professional future may be jeopardized as a result of these actions.
However, there are important elements of a crime of this nature that students should be aware of if they have been accused of making threats on the internet:
Protected Expression vs. Illegal Activity
Whether a threat made online is illegal or protected expression depends on the individual characteristics of the threat. A conviction is only made in circumstances when a threat is likely to be carried out. In cases when a threat is made and criminal charges are brought, there are several factors that are considered that either rules out a case or validates a claim. These are factors include:
- Who did you threaten?
- What is being threatened?
- Is the threat credible? and
- What did you really mean or intend by making the threat?
Oftentimes, when a threat is aimed directly at another person, with detailed specifics of how they will be harmed and you have obviously intended on acting on it, it is considered illegal. Seemingly meaningless threats like “everyone who doesn't support our college team is going to get it” will most likely not be investigated. Your intent when posting a threat is the determining factor in a conviction.
How Can Internet Threats Affect My Standing as a Student of the College?
When a student is accused of making internet threats, they may face repercussions from the college or university he or she attends. Oftentimes, higher education institutions work with local authorities to bring charges against students. Students who have been found guilty for making internet threats will be treated with disciplinary actions. Schools have suspended and even expelled students by partaking in this misconduct.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey Student Defense Attorney
Facing criminal charges as a college student can be terrifying. With so much at stake, it's important that students consult with an attorney that is willing to protect their rights and preserve their educational future. If you or your student is facing criminal charges and/or disciplinary actions, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.