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Supreme Court reverses conviction based on Facebook threats

Facebook and other social media platforms are a part of many people’s lives.  Each day people update their statuses to reflect what is going on in their lives and how they are feeling. Accordingly, the nature of those statuses runs the gamut. Sometimes they are happy while other times they may express displeasure or anger.  In addition to using their own words, some people look to song lyrics to communicate their feelings. A man living in another state who did this faced criminal repercussions and his case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. A decision was recently reached regarding the case. 

When his wife left him the man began posting rap-style lyrics to Facebook that were deemed to be violent in nature. Those posts prompted the man’s now former wife to seek a restraining order. He also lost his job. He was eventually accused of threatening his wife, a law enforcement officer and a kindergarten class and in a jury trial was convicted. At that trial the jury was instructed that it needed to determine whether the prosecution had successfully shown that the messages he posted would be deemed as a threat to a reasonable person. As a penalty he was sentenced to three years in prison.

The man appealed and asserted that a stricter standard should have been applied. Specifically he claimed that his state of mind should have been included in determining whether his words equated a threat. The Supreme Court agreed with the man and reversed the lower court’s conviction.

Since it is unlikely that people will stop sharing their feeling on social media anytime soon, the outcome of this case will undoubtedly have a bearing on similar cases. For those who find that they are in this situation a criminal defense lawyer is a good place to turn.

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