Audrie’s Law – Stricter Laws for Cyberbulling

After the devastating suicide of Audrie Pott in September 2012, a week after she drank too much vodka-laced Gatorade at a house party, passed out and woke up to find crude messages scribbled on her half naked body. Facebook messages she sent out looking for answers the next week suggested she knew photos had been taken and “the whole school knows.” Three teens boys were brought to juvenile court and received, what some would consider, minimal punishment after being found guilty of photographing and sexually assaulting 15-year-old classmate Audrie Pott.

Public outrage in response to the minimal punishment for these three juveniles has led to the creation of a new bill, presented to the California State Senate by Sen. Jim Beall, and supported by Audrie’s mother and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

Audrie’s Law or Senate Bill 838 would also make cyberbullying a crime — a felony in some cases — when photos or electronic messages are used to embarrass, harass or intimidate others. The law, if passed, would improve four areas of existing California law: 1) Sexual assaults involving any kind of penetration would become a felony in both juvenile and adult cases. 2) Sharing photos of an assault online would become a felony, updating the law to make it more relevant to the digital age. 3) Blacked-out victims would receive equal treatment under sexual assault laws. 4) Judges would have the option of publicly disclosing the name of a minor charged with sexual assault and listing juveniles as sex offenders under Megan’s Law. The bill specifically aims to exact stricter punishments on juveniles found guilty of sexual assault, who often end up with sentences that many believe are too lax given the severity of their crimes.

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