FACEBOOK AND FREE SPEECH – A DEFENSE LAWYER’S PERSPECTIVE

FIRST AMENDMENT DEFINED

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits making any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances by the United States Congress, the legislative branch of the United States Federal government. It was adopted on December 15, 1791.

US SUPREME COURT TO HEAR AN IMPORTANT CASE INVOLVING FACEBOOK AND FREE SPEECH

Freedom of speech does have limits. As an example, you are not allowed to yell “fire” in a crowded movie house. The use of Facebook has added a new area of concern relative to freedom of speech issues that the courts have started to address. On June 16, 2014, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Elonis v United States. During a contentious divorce case, Mr. Elonis resorted to Facebook to express his frustrations and anxiety over the divorce and his life in general. The posts on Facebook had to do with Mr. Elonis musing about killing his ex-wife and others. There were also posts of rap music lyrics on the topic of killing. Mr. Elonis insisted he meant no harm by these posts. He was charged under federal law for the electronic transmission of a threat across state lines and served almost 4 years in a federal prison.

The issue before the United States Supreme Court is, “[w]hether, consistent with the First Amendment and Virginia v Black, conviction of threating another person under [federal law] requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten, as required by the 9th Circuit and the supreme courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont’ or whether it is enough to show that a “reasonable person” would regard the statement as threatening, as held by other federal courts of appeals and state courts of last resort.” The Defendant asserts that a “reasonable person” standard is incorrect because of the high potential for misinterpretation in social media by people that do not know the defendant. It is argued that the standard should be “subjective intent” – has was merely expressing his frustration and not to threaten.

The decision in this case will have far reaching implications in our social media focused world. Stay tuned!!

DEFENDERS OF THE CONSTITUTION – MICHIGAN CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS

If you, or someone you know, are facing criminal charges, we know how to employ all of the protections contained in the United States Constitution. If you want to have the best defense to a felony or misdemeanor charge, it is important that you contact an attorney who is expert in constitutional law. The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have over 50 years of experience in criminal law and constitutional law. You need an expert to help you when your freedom is in jeopardy. Please contact the lawyers at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Information Form and one of our attorneys will contact you.

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