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Artistic Expression or Criminal Threat?

Even at a time when some fear we as a people are becoming increasingly isolated from one another, we are also more open and expressive than previous generations as well. Younger generations especially are accustomed to sharing their every feeling, activity, and creative thought with others through social media platforms. Can some of these “creative thoughts and expressions” cross the line and become criminal activity? It may come down to intent.

An Example Illustrates the Problem

Consider a hypothetical young man and aspiring musician who had a bad week. He found out he was being laid off from his job and had failed an important class in college. Not only this, but his significant other moved out and wants nothing to do with him. He is angry, alone, and feeling depressed. To alleviate these emotions, he puts pen to paper and scratches out musical lyrics that express the feelings he is experiencing. Some of these lyrics are rather graphic and speak of committing acts of violence on certain individuals and generally causing chaos and mayhem around town. He proudly posts his musical creation online for his friends to see. Unfortunately for the man, law enforcement officers are made aware of his lyrics and arrest the man based on his statements. They claim his work constitutes a criminal act. Are they right?

Be Careful What You Post or Send Online

There are not enough facts here to say with certainty how a court or jury would rule in this man’s unfortunate situation: however, he may have violated Florida’s stalking law or written threats law. A person can be found to have violated Florida’s stalking statute if that person harasses or follows another person and communicates a “credible threat” to the life or bodily safety of another person that causes the target of the theft to fear for his or her safety. Assuming the man was also harassing or following his ex-partner, if the man’s lyrics included statements that he would kill his ex-partner or do other bodily harm to this person, and this person read the statement and became fearful for his or her safety, then the stalking law may be applicable. Stalking is a felony of the third degree.

Sending a written threat to someone through electronic means containing a threat to kill or injure a person or a member of the person’s immediate family member is a felony of the second degree.

Intent Does Matter – Seek Legal Help

Although these statutes focus on the recipient’s reaction to the words, the writer’s own intention in drafting the words can play a crucial role in determining whether you are convicted or acquitted. Jeffrey S. Weiner, South Florida criminal defense attorney, knows that uncovering the details of your case – who the communication was sent to or read by, whether you indicated you had written a song or poem, and what reasonable individuals like friends and family took your words to mean – is important in obtaining a successful resolution. Contact his office for experienced and creative criminal defense counsel by calling (305) 670-9919.

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