Sunday, March 29, 2020

ILLINOIS CYBERSTALKING LAW DOES NOT VIOLATE FIRST AMENDMENT

You texted some things you probably shouldn’t have to your ex-fiancé. You knew the texts were nasty, but you were blowing off steam. And what about your right to free speech?

A recent Illinois court decision has held that certain comments, such as true threats, are not protected speech under the First Amendment.

Under one definition of cyberstalking, the state must prove that you knowingly and without lawful justification harassed another person at least twice through electronic communication, and you transmitted a threat of bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint which was directed towards that person or their family; or you placed that person in reasonable fear of such harm or you solicited a third person to commit cyberstalking for you. (See 720 ILCS 5/12-7.5(a-3)).

In People v. Crawford, the court rejected the idea that the cyberstalking law violated due process or free speech. In that case, the defendant sent several text messages telling the victim she was “GONE DIE,” and “I WILL F*** MURDER U.” The defendant argued his statements were protected by the First Amendment. The court disagreed stating that the defendant’s messages were true threats, and thus not constitutionally-protected speech. True threats are statements where you intend to communicate a serious expression of your intent to commit an act of violence to a particular individual or group. You need not actually intend to carry out your threat.

If you have been charged with cyberstalking or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Were your texts true threats or were they misunderstood? Were you just kidding around? Was the victim’s fear of harm reasonable? Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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