The United States Supreme Court issues its long-awaited decision in Elonis v. United States. How cool is that?
Via Ken White at Popehat:
So what did the Supreme Court do?
Screw everything up.
The Supreme Court could have ruled on just Section 875(c) — it could have just said “this statute requires proof of subjective intent.” It could have gone further and ruled on the First Amendment, saying “the First Amendment requires subjective intent to prove a true threat” or that the First Amendment doesn’t require that.
Instead, seven justices ruled that Section 875(c) requires the government to prove something more than what it did, but not exactly what.
Via Venkat Balasubramani at Technology & Marking Law Blog:
The “reasonable person” standard is a familiar and well-worn one, but it’s insufficient because it’s a negligence standard, and criminal statutes are presumed to require a higher level of culpability than negligence. The government tried to inch its standard over the line, arguing that it was actually “something more” than negligence, but the Court rejects this view. The parties also argued about whether recklessness was sufficient, but the Court punts on this issue altogether.
Via Cristian Farias at New York Magazine:
The court noted that “wrongdoing must be conscious to be criminal” — that is, the government can’t just go after you because of how others feel about you. Indeed, people may very reasonably feel you said something really terrible to them, and may even sue you for causing them emotional distress. But under criminal law, their feelings, no matter how reasonable, are irrelevant [?]. Roberts put it this way: “The central thought is that a defendant must be blameworthy in mind before he can be found guilty.”
Via Eugene Volokh at Volokh Conspiracy:
We still don’t know, following Elonis, whether the “true threats” exception to the First Amendment (1) covers only statements said with the purpose of putting someone in fear, (2) applies also to statements said knowing that the target will be put in fear, (3) applies also to statements said knowing that there’s a serious risk that the target will be put in fear, or (4) covers all statements that a reasonable person would view as aimed at putting the target in fear. Indeed, as best I can tell, the Supreme Court did not resolve the federal circuit court disagreement on the First Amendment issue that helped persuade the Court to hear the case. And the statutory decision that the Court reached, while important for deciding how to instruct juries in federal threats case, is likely to practically affect the results in only a narrow range of cases.
Via Jay Michaelson at The Daily Beast:
Today, the Supreme Court held that you can post a threat to kill your wife on Facebook, but you’re not guilty of making a threat.
This is good news if you’re focused on free speech, especially online. It’s bad news if you’re concerned about the capacity of information technology to amplify threats, stalking, and coercion.
Plus cool graphic for those who find reading too much effort:
I have nothing further to add.