Serving Maryland and Washington D.C. 301-870-1200

Revised Cyberbullying Law in Maryland

In 2013, Maryland created “Grace’s Law,” which made it a misdemeanor to cyberbully another person through the use of a cell phone or computer. Now, the law gets an update for 2018.

Referred to as “Grace’s Law 2.0,” the new law unanimously passed a Maryland Senate vote last month to amend the law to include cyberbullying through social media. Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, was the bill’s sponsor, and he noted that the 2013 law was not as comprehensive as it needed to be.

Grace’s Law 2.0

Grace’s Law 2.0, or Senate Bill 726, seeks to increase the penalties for defamatory or threatening statements made about a minor, or a parent of a minor. The current law imposes a one-year maximum sentence and a $500 maximum fine. The revised law would make it a three-year sentence and fine of $10,000. There is a special clause that indicates the jail time would increase to 10 years if the accused suggests the minor should commit suicide.

The new law also goes on to discuss cyberbullying in social media. This would apply to people who create fake social media profiles with the intent to harm or torment another student. You cannot log into a minor’s social media account and post any photos, and most importantly, it removes the free speech protection against phrases like “go kill yourself.”

History of Grace’s Law

The original law was passed after Grace McComas, a student at Glenelg High School, took her own life after being harassed for months on Facebook and Twitter. The family went to the police when Grace was still alive, and neither the courts nor police could do anything to assist. Unable to cope with the repeated attacks, the 15-year-old student took her own life. After that, her parents led the movement to get a law passed in Maryland that would help protect other minors in Grace’s position. Grace’s mother, Christine McComas, remains an anti-bullying advocate and was present during the Senate hearing last month. She noted that the current Grace’s Law resulted in 576 charges between July 2016 and June 2017.

Opposition to Grace’s Law

There is a lot of opposition to Grace’s Law 2.0, especially from the ACLU of Maryland, who declared both this and the original law to be unconstitutional. They claim both laws are a First Amendment violation to the right of free speech, and some victims may unintentionally be harmed by Grace’s Law. David Rocah, attorney for the Maryland ACLU, points out that some of the unintended consequences of this law could mean a rape victim who accuses her attacker online may have the sexual conduct language in Grace’s Law used against her. The section that discusses sending images could keep someone from pointing out truthfully that another student attends Nazi rallies.

Instead, Rocah says the state can prosecute cyberbullies under a longstanding harassment statute that has been upheld by the courts over the years.

Retaining a Maryland Personal Injury Attorney

If you have a child who is experiencing cyberbullying or some other form of harassment, you may have a claim for civil damages in addition to criminal charges and fines. It is important to retain a skilled Maryland personal injury attorney who can help determine the best course of action in your particular situation. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro for a free consultation and let us help you get the compensation your family deserves.

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 870-1200.