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Cyberbullying Laws and Penalties in Minnesota

Cyberbullying is not only harmful but can also cross the line to criminal conduct

While bullying has always been particularly problematic among teenagers, cyberbullying - bullying that occurs in an electronic format—can be even more harmful. With the widespread use of social media and messaging, this problem may be the most dangerous form of bullying to date. What some might not realize is that it can also be a crime.

While Minnesota doesn't have a crime specific to cyberbullying yet, these acts can be punished as harassment or stalking crimes. Harassment and stalking carry penalties ranging from a year of jail time to 10 years in prison.

Penalties for Cyberharassment

Minnesota law makes it a crime to harass or intimidate another through any available technology.

Harassment. A communication is considered harassment if it:

  • causes or would likely cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, or

  • causes a reasonable person to fear for their own or a family member's safety.

This law also covers acts of doxing where a person uses another's personal information, without their consent, to solicit sexual acts with others.

Penalties. A person convicted of harassment faces up to 364 days in jail and a $3,000 fine for a gross misdemeanor. Felony penalties apply when a defendant:

  • has a prior conviction for harassment or a similar crime

  • harasses another due to bias (such as race, gender, or sexual orientation)

  • unlawfully impersonates someone else, or

  • harasses a minor who's at least three years younger than the defendant.

These felonies carry a maximum 5-year prison sentence. The penalty increases to a 10-year felony for third and subsequent convictions, as well as harassment of a minor where the defendant acted with sexual or aggressive intent.

Penalties for Cyberstalking

A person who repeatedly harasses another knowing that their actions will, and do, terrorize the victim can be charged with felony stalking. The maximum penalty for stalking—including cyberstalking—is 10 years of prison time and a $20,000 fine.

(Minn. Stat. § 609.749 (2023).)


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