NorCal Police Officer Will Not Face Charges
A Northern California police officer will not be prosecuted for posting inflammatory social media messages about anti-police protests, according to official reports. Officer Philip White, who has been on paid leave since December 15, 2014, became the focus of media attention when some tweets he posted about the protesters went viral. One vowed to kill anyone who threatened his family.
The San Jose police department will conduct an internal investigation to determine if White should be disciplined or dismissed. Some activists are calling for him to be fired because of his social media activity in the wake of tensions between protestor and police officers across the country.
When Is Free Speech a Crime?
Many people attempt to use the personal liberty of “free speech” as a defense for saying or writing anything they choose. However, the right to free speech is not always a shield from criminal charges.
For example, speech evidence can be used to support other criminal charges. So-called “hate crimes” are a relatively new classification of criminal behavior that is becoming more widespread as jurisdictions make efforts to stop targeting of certain individuals based on race, religion or sexual orientation. While speech against these groups is not a hate crime and is actually protected by the First Amendment, words can be used as evidence in the prosecution of a hate crime if the words lead to physical violence or other criminal acts. What you write and say may, indeed, come back to haunt you.
In addition, some speech is regarded as criminal because of the effect it has on someone else. Threats, for example, cause a reasonable fear in the person who hears them. While idle words are not usually punishable by law, threatening to hurt someone could be charged as assault, and in some cases could lead to jail time, fines and other penalties. You are also prohibited from speech that leads to injury, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded location when there is no fire and there is a good possibility that someone will be hurt in the ensuing panic.
If you have been arrested for any type of criminal activity, it is important that you protect your rights by speaking with a criminal defense attorney. The lawyers at Amerio Law Firm in Sacramento are here to help you uphold your civil rights and protect yourself from criminal charges.