In an attempt to strengthen online bullying consequences and clarify actionable offenses of those who perpetrate online crimes, a Thursday morning vote saw Maryland Senators unanimously pass Senate Bill 103 (also known as Grace’s Law 2.0).
Sponsored by Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Bobby Zirkin (District 11 – Baltimore County), the legislation boasts broad bipartisan co-sponsorship including Senators Carter (District 41 – Baltimore City), Cassilly (District 34 – Harford County), Elfreth (District 30 – Anne Arundel County), Hester (District 9 – Howard and Carroll Counties), Hough (District 5 – Frederick and Carroll Counties), Lee (District 16 – Montgomery County), Ready (District 5 – Carroll County), Smith (District 20 – Montgomery County), Waldstreicher (District 18 – Montgomery County), Washington (District 43 – Baltimore City), and West (District 43 – Baltimore County).
Introduced last year, very similar legislation passed the Senate but stalled in the House Judiciary Committee prior to the conclusion of the 2018 legislative session. Modified now to address the issues raised by opponents, Chairman Zirkin believes that the legislation is now “narrowly tailored” to achieve its intended consequences.
Drafted as a result of the tragic suicide of repeated online bullying victim, fifteen-year-old Howard County resident, Grace McComas the legislation would extend and expand current protections established back in 2013.
In a 2018 interview with the Capital News Service, Christine McComas (mother of Grace McComas) stated: “The proliferation of cyber equipment and applications continues to quickly morph and change.” She followed: “Children need additional protections from those who would use it for harm.”
“There are limits to the First Amendment’s unbridled free speech and this is one of them,” said Zirkin. We have an obligation to protect these (young) folks.”
State law currently allows for those who induce a minor to commit suicide through an interactive computer service to be charged with a misdemeanor offense punishable by just a one year prison sentence and/or a $500 fine.
This legislation better clarifies both the crime of online bullying as well as its consequences. The bill would now allow for those who commit online bullying acts (that induce death and/or trauma) to be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $10,000. This increases current penalties which were limited to just a maximum of one year prison sentence and/or a $500 fine.
Upon Senate passage, Senate Bill 103 now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration. The legislation is cross-filed with House Bill 181 sponsored by, the original House Sponsor of the initial 2013 Grace’s Law legislation, Delegate Jon Cardin (District 11 – Baltimore County). House Bill 181 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee later today.