Cyberbullies, Beware: It's Now a Crime in Michigan to Taunt and Bully Someone Online

Michigan online trolls beware: it's now a crime to cyber bully in Michigan and can draw up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law officially defining cyberbullying as a misdemeanor crime that takes effect in March 2019, the Detroit Metro Times reported Friday.

At the very least, the law makes cyberbullying punishable by up to 93 days in jail, plus a $500 fine.

"Cyberbullying can cause just as much trauma as traditional bullying so it's important that it be considered a crime," Snyder said in a statement to the Metro Times. "With this bill, we are sending a message that bullying of any kind is not tolerated in Michigan."

The bill comes on the heels of the high-profile deaths of several individuals in recent years who have died by suicide after online bullies taunted and insulted them.

In Michigan, Zoe Johnson, 13, died July 6, 2015, Her mother, Rebecca Abbott, said at the time her daughter had reached her breaking point after repeated bullying online.

Zoe was a member of the cheer team and had just finished the seventh grade at Kenowa Hills Middle School.

At the time police said the social media posts did not indicate criminal wrong-doing, the Metro News reported.

Now sponsor Rep. Pete Lucido's bill has become law carrying other stipulations.

Furthermore, the new law defines a pattern of repeated harassment as a felony punishable up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

If cyberbullying causes a victim's death, the crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The Associated Press reported that the new cyberbullying law makes it a misdemeanor to post a message or statement on the internet — or any other medium designed to convey information to other people — that expresses an intention to threaten and commit violence against another person. Continued harassment and intimidation would be a felony if it causes serious injury or death.

The language of the law defines cyberbullying as "posting a message or statement in a public media forum about any other person."

If "the message or statement is intended to place a person in fear of bodily harm or death and expresses an intent to commit violence against the person" and "the message or statement is posted with the intent to communicate a threat or with knowledge that it will be viewed as a threat."

Breaking down the law, a pattern of harassing or intimidating behavior translates into a series of two or more separate, noncontinuous acts of harassing or intimidating behavior.

A "public media forum" refers to "the internet or any other medium designed or intended to be used to convey information to other individuals, regardless of whether a membership or password is required to view the information," the Metro News reports.

Snyder will hand over the governorship to Democrat Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday. On Friday, he pushed through 100 bills and vetoed dozens more at a frenzied pace, reported UpNorthLive.com.