Does your child have a cyberbully? Or do you? Bureau of Justice statistics show that about 15% of U.S. high school students are cyberbullied each school year and a staggering 40% of adults have experienced cyberbullying too.
Cyberbullying involves bullying, shaming, threatening, and stalking that occurs over electronic devices. It might take place in public right before everyone’s eyes on Instagram, or it might happen more privately through text messages or even voicemails. Here in Maryland, we have laws that help people stand up to cyberbullies and hold them responsible for their actions.
Maryland offers something called a peace order, which isn’t available in all states. A peace order holds someone accountable for harassment, stalking, and other types of behavior that destroy a person’s safety and peace of mind. If a judge issues a peace order, the cyberbully will be notified that they need to leave you alone and may face penalties for failure to obey the order.
Here’s How to Obtain a Maryland Peace Order
It takes a few steps to secure a peace order. Start by contacting a Maryland attorney who is qualified to assist you with the process. This is the best way to ensure that you don’t inadvertently do something to ruin your chances of getting the order.
Next, file a peace order petition with the court to request a hearing. The hearing will determine whether the cyberbully’s actions create an urgent need for a peace order. You’ll need to cite a specific action by the cyberbully within the past 30 days.
In Maryland, Peace Orders require one of the following conditions to be met:
- You received serious bodily harm or are in fear of imminent serious bodily harm.
- You have been assaulted or raped. This includes threatening to harm you and intentionally frightening you.
- Someone has trespassed on or maliciously destroyed your property.
- You have been visually surveilled in a private place without giving consent.
- You have been the victim of the kinds of crimes that show a persistent pattern of conduct, composed of a series of acts over time, that shows a continuity of purpose. This would include Harassment, Stalking, Telephone Misuse, Electronic Communication Misuse, Revenge Porn, and Visual Surveillance.
The law that criminalizes Electronic Communication Misuse is designed to stop Cyberbullying.
If the judge issues a peace order, it will be temporary at first and last up to 30 days. But don’t worry – this is a good start. It means the cyberbully must stop posting things online, threatening you, and contacting you. It also forbids them from trying to visit you in person.
Next, there will be another hearing within seven days of the temporary order being issued. As long as a judge determines that it’s more likely than not that the cyberbully has committed or will commit a prohibited act, a final peace order will likely be issued. A Final Peace Order can last for as long as six months.
Peace Orders are Not the Same as Protective Orders
Most people are more familiar with a protective order, which is similar. But the big difference between a protective order and a peace order surrounds your relationship with the other person.
A protective order involves someone you live with, like a spouse or family member. A peace order doesn’t require you to live with the person and applies to anyone out in the world who might harass, threaten, and/or physically harm you. Sometimes, you barely know the person against whom you’ve brought the peace order.
To be clear, you can obtain a peace order regardless of whether a cyberbully has ever followed through on a threat. Don’t wait for someone to harm you. Below, we’ll look at some examples of cyberbullying where a peace order could be very helpful.
Common Situations That Call for a Peace Order
You can take action to stop online bullying. If a cyberbully is targeting you or your child, seek a peace order to help put a stop to it. Here are some common situations where people seek peace orders.
- A classmate is posting personal, private information about your child online.
- Someone is trying to “out” you or your teenager online for being LGBTQ.
- The bullying is taking place on Instagram, which is the world’s #1 platform for cyberbullying.
- Constant photos/messages on Snapchat or Twitter are humiliating for your child.
- There are videos on YouTube that show your disabled child being teased or shamed.
- You’re receiving a frightening series of threatening texts or phone calls.
- After buying/selling something on an online platform like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, someone won’t stop contacting you.
Cyberbullying sometimes arises in unexpected places, which is why the official U.S. government website StopBullying.com advises adults to consider these important factors:
Persistent: It happens online, meaning it can occur 24/7 and really wear you down.
Public: Cyberbullying remains almost permanently on the internet, where anyone can see it.
Parents don’t notice: Cyberbullying can be hard for adults to detect, so we must help children recognize it and understand that they don’t have to tolerate it.
For more information about cyberbullying and obtaining a peace order, connect with a qualified Maryland attorney. It’s time to stand up to your cyberbully and reclaim your peace of mind.
Have a Legal Question About Peace Orders and Cyberbullying? We Have Answers
For issues involving peace orders and cyberbullying, the attorneys at Zirkin and Schmerling Law can help. Contact us or call us at 410-753-4611 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys today.
Hi, I’m Erik Atas, Head of the Criminal Defense Department here at Zirkin & Schmerling Law. The purpose of this video is to answer questions that I get asked by prospective clients often, which is, should I apply for a protection or a peace order? Now first, I think it’s helpful to answer the question of what is a protection and/or a peace order. Now those two things are different documents with the same purpose. They are both Maryland’s forms of restraining orders. Their main difference is who they apply to. Protection orders are typically reserved for people that you are in a close relationship with, such as your significant other or a close family member. Peace orders are typically referred to somebody that’s not closer to you than being a neighbor.
Now, why should you be applying for a protection order or a peace order? And the reason is, I want you to consider a situation where you were the victim of a crime and that person was prosecuted. However, when they went through that process, that person was found not guilty. Now the reason for that was the standard of proof to convict somebody of a crime is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s a very high standard. However, all along you could have applied for a protection order or a peace order depending on your circumstances. The standard of proof for a protection order or a peace order is much lower. That standard is called preponderance of the evidence, meaning more likely than not that that act or abuse took place.
Now, this is important to you because it gives you a better chance of seeking what you are truly looking for, which is to move on with your life and to live in a peaceful manner where you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder, so that regardless of what happens in the criminal case, you know if this person ever has any illegal or improper contact with you that violates that order, you are simply able to call the police and report this person has had contact that specifically violates that order, and that hopefully gives you peace of mind. You need an attorney that can assist you with getting these types of relief. Our firm handles calls 24 hours a day. Call me at (410) 356-4455. Thank you.