Supreme Court sets legal standards for online rants
World - 06/09/2015
“It was not a surprise decision because it fits in a rich tradition of criminal law cases by the Supreme Court holding that there must be a blameworthy mental state in order for the defendant to be found guilty,” said Daniel Medwed, who teaches criminal law at Northeastern University.
In the brave new online world, according to the Supreme Court, a post cannot be considered a criminal threat unless the writer meant for it to be taken that way. By an 8-1 majority, the justices said the standard isn’t whether a “reasonable person” would consider those messages as threatening, but rather the defendant’s state of mind.
“It will make it more difficult for federal prosecutors to pursue charges under this statute, but not unreasonably so,” Medwed said. “They just have to find evidence indicating, essentially, that the defendant was blameworthy and intended to threaten the victim on some level.”