Americans enjoy great leeway when it comes to what they can say thanks to our country’s extensive protections of free speech. But Oceanside defense lawyers remind you that there are limits to what you can say, both in person and online, especially when that speech may incite someone to commit a crime. While it can be easy to say things on social media that you don’t actually mean, it is important to remember that what you say online is legally the same as what you might say to someone in person.
When Political Speech Goes Too Far
Politics can make people very angry and even push them to say truly ugly things. But while it’s completely legal (though quite tasteless) to say “I hope Donald Trump dies,” or even, “I hope someone kills Elizabeth Warren,” it is a different matter to say that you will “literally give $500 to anyone who kills an ICE agent.” Sure, you could legally say that in person and make it obvious you were joking, but when writing it online (as one Twitter user did), you need to be aware that people cannot tell if you are joking or serious. As a result, you can easily be charged with “use of interstate and foreign commerce to transmit a threat to injure another person,” which is exactly what happened to the person who wrote the tweet.
According to the prosecutors, the man designed his Tweet to encourage violence and murder against law enforcement agents. While criminal attorneys in Oceanside agree that his lawyer will probably argue that the Tweet was protected speech as the man did mean it as hyberbole and did not mean it literally, even if he is not convicted, he will have still spent substantial time and money to fight the charges. It’s a perfect example of why you should think before you Tweet anything that could be construed as illegal.
Other Crimes on Social Media
Aside from people saying incendiary statements on Twitter, people have been arrested for saying many things on social media. Many people have been charged with trying to solicit sex with minors online. Two teens were charged trying to crowdfund ammunition to perform a school shooting. While he wasn’t charged with a crime, Rob Kardassian could have been charged with revenge porn after posting nudes of Blac Chyna online without her permission. And at least two popular YouTube stars were investigated for child abuse after posting questionable videos on the site.
Oceanside defense attorneys believe it’s also important to realize that even if you don’t face charges directly related to what you post online, what you say on social media could later be used against you if you are charged with a related crime in the future. For example, if a person writes on Twitter about how much they hate Latinos and believe that Mexicans should all be sent back to Mexico, this could be used as evidence if that person is later accused of intentionally striking a Latino pedestrian with his car. It could even provide grounds for additional hate crime charges to be filed.
Additionally, in crimes involving alcohol use or abuse, prosecutors commonly look for social media posts glamorizing or showing alcohol consumption.
If you have been accused of a crime and believe statements on your social media accounts could be used against you, be sure to give this information to your Oceanside criminal lawyer. You can schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss by calling (760) 643-4050.