Protected by the First Amendment

Our First Amendment can trump perceived criminal conduct, at least that is what one Washington State appeals court has recently ruled. The sordid facts of the case are as follows:

A Bellingham High School student took to Twitter to express her anger toward a classmate. Referring to an incident that occurred between the two in 2011, the girl tweeted for all to see: “[To be honest], I still want to punch you in the throat even tho[ugh] it was 2 years ago.” She followed it up with another message that was simply a hashtag of her rival’s name followed by “must die.” The next day the targeted girl was made aware of the texts by another student, and reported the messages to school authorities anyway even though she wasn’t herself ‘scared’. The Twitterer was, in due course, criminally charged with, and subsequently convicted of, cyber-stalking; she appealed the verdict.

On its face the language used seems pretty darn scary, right? After all, that language surely seems threatening. And that obviously is why charges were filed against the student. At any rate, upon appeal, the Washington Court of Appeals Division One examined the applicable statute. The appeals court focused on two specific issues in this particular case: (1) the fact that the “victim” readily admitted that she didn’t take the tweets as a true threat; and (2) the fact that the defendant testified that she and her friends regularly used Twitter as, in essence, an online diary, wherein they frequently expressed their “thoughts, reactions, feelings, and more.” In other words, the girl was just speaking her mind on social media instead of actually threatening harm upon the other girl. In light of these factors, the esteemed appellate court overturned the girl’s cyber-stalking conviction and dismissed the case. So … as can be seen by this ruling, the First Amendment trumped what some may see as criminal behavior; thought communication, although mean-spirited and hateful, is not the same as a direct threat if the recipient doesn’t actually take it as such.

If you or a loved has been arrested or charged with a domestic violence related crime in Washington State immediately contact a Seattle criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and interests. The Seattle criminal defense attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal defense lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether cited for cyber-stalking, DUI, domestic violence, malicious mischief, assault, property destruction or some other crime, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys immediately.

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10.0Gregory Wayne Schwesinger
10.0Saad Qamer Qadri