For those that think that freedom of speech means that they can say whatever they want to whomever the please, think again. Online forums and comments often get out of hand quickly for a variety of psychological reasons, according to How Stuff Works:
- There is little to no accountability for one’s actions in a non face-to-face conversation;
- Human communication is largely non-verbal, as we rely heavily on facial expressions, body position and eye contact;
- Self control is lost when egos are inflated due to Facebook “likes” or the attention that a nasty tweet can attract; and
- Inhibition is lost because it feels like you, only with your smartphone for company in the room, are only talking to yourself
But what does this mean legally? Can I go to jail or prison just because I wrote something mean online?
Florida Woman Gets Five Months in Jail for Online Death Threat
A Florida woman was recently sentenced to five months in federal prison for writing a death threat to a father of one of the Sandy Hook victims. His son, aged six years old, was one of 20 children killed in the massacre, according to Reuters. There has been a growing online presence of people who believe the event was a political hoax created by those who want to take guns away from everyone, and the father, Leonard Pozner, has since created a website to refute those false claims. The woman who was recently sentenced wrote “LOOK BEHIND YOU IT IS DEATH,” to Pozner on his website. The threat was one of many that he still receives to this day. The woman pled guilty to one count of transmitting threats via interstate commerce, which is a federal crime. According to Pozner, “I’m satisfied with the sentencing because for me it’s about raising awareness to this growing problem of alternative facts and people who are easily influenced by those facts, and then, take it upon themselves to think that they are the part of some army of good.”
According to 18 U.S. Code § 875, whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any of the following communications shall be charged with up to two years in federal prison:
- Ransom request;
- Threat of kidnapping;
- Threat of injury or murder;
- Threat to injure a person’s property or reputation or to cause any other crime.
Threats made to someone in-person are much harder to prove in court. Because everything we do online or via texting can be found even after it is deleted, and used as evidence in court, violent threats made online are much easier to prove. Even if you had no actual intention of carrying out any violence, the threats you make online are not only criminal acts, but are somewhat eternal.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in West Palm Beach Today
Have you been charged with threatening another via interstate communications? If so, you need legal help immediately to ensure that you stay out of federal prison. Contact the Skier Law Firm in West Palm Beach at (561) 220-3355 today.