Criminal defense for free speech and social media
Pennsylvania residents may know that free speech allows social media posts to be tasteless, disturbing, or vulgar, as well as thought-provoking. However, the Supreme Court has been asked to weigh in on whether the First Amendment applies to those who use the Internet to communicate violent or threatening language when the speaker’s intent is not clear. The question is when free speech online becomes an internet crime. At the Law Offices of Gary E. Gerson, we provide criminal defense in Western Pennsylvania for people who are accused of internet crimes that are related to free speech. It is well established that free speech does not protect certain types of statements, including threats. Two defendants have appealed convictions for making threats, denying that either of them meant any harm. A Pennsylvania man created lyrics for a rap song to complain about his estranged wife. He also mentioned committing a school shooting and killing an FBI agent. The second case arose after a Florida woman emailed a radio station regarding Second Amendment rights and saying that she was planning something big for an area school or government office. The lower courts have consistently found that a true threat exists if an objective person understands the message to be a threat. The defendants’ attorneys argue that the standard should instead be based on the speaker’s state of mind. They rely upon a 2003 ruling that stated that a cross burning performed without specific intent to intimidate was protected by the First Amendment. When a person is accused of committing a crime, a criminal defense lawyer could argue that the person failed to possess the intent legally required to complete the offense. It may also be possible to raise unconstitutionality as a defense if a conviction would infringe a person’s rights. A lawyer may also be able to appeal a case far enough to change the law. If you have questions about free speech and internet crimes, call Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Gary Gerson for a free consultation at 412-219-6875.