Sexting and First Amendment Rights

JURIST – Paper Chase: Federal appeals court rules against child pornography charges in texting case

Teens Could Get Hit With Child-Pornography Charges For Sexting

In this case, the prosecutor claimed two teenage girls who had topless photos of themselves on several different people’s cell phones were practicing child pornography. This case touches on both the obscenity and student speech cases we have been studying in class. In recent months, ‘sexting’, or sending naked photos has been discussed rather frequently in the media. The 14 year- old girls were wearing bras in the photos and a third friend took the picture. The ACLU defended the teenagers, saying that they never intended for the photo to be distributed and they were just having fun, as claimed in the linked articles. This is interesting because with modern technology how can someone control where a text message gets shared? Are girls wearing bras being obscene? I just think that if the girls were wearing bathing suits it wouldn’t have gone this far. The prosecutor wanted the teens to take a class on sexual harrassment and gender identity, the girls refused to take part in the class saying it was a violation of their first amendment rights to have to write essays on things they didn’t feel comfortable with. I’m sure there are many other cases like this one going on right now. It is very interesting to see what kind of laws, if any, will be made against text messages and minors.

Campaign Dollars and The First Amendment


THE ISSUE: Is it constitutional to limit a companies donation and is it a violation of free speech?

Recently the Supream Court stuck down McCain Feingold. Essentially the action by the court now allows cooperations to donate limitlessly to campaigns. Before it was not unusual for a large company like GE or AIG, in the world of politics to hide, launder or channel money to a candidate through other sources.

This was because it was illegal for large companies to flood money to one candidate or the other. This would, in theory present an unfair advantage to the candidates; and it is usually the one who raises the most money who wins.

The legal issue here with the 2002 McCain Feingold act is it limits free speech. It was argued that First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech.

The court ruled on a very divided 5-4 vote and the dissenters opinion given by Justice Stevens said the majority had committed a grave error in treating corporate speech the same as that of human beings. Eight of the justices did agree that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements, at least in the absence of proof of threats or reprisals.that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.

The majority’s opinion stated “If the First Amendment has any force,” Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, which included the four members of the court’s conservative wing, “it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.”

From a completely legal standpoint this was a correct decision. It is unconstitutional for the government to limit Political or any form of free speech as per the first amendment. the argument is however that this was going on anyway in the form of soft money contributions and PA C’s.

“The ruling, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205, overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.”

(New York Times)


Articles to read to find out more……

Lyrics and Expression- James Riggio

In July of 2009, a Florida rapper known as T.O. was arrested and plead no contest to charges of threatening a public servant based on lyrics from a song of his, “”Kill Me a Cop,” that say in part, “I’ma kill me a cop one day,” and was sentenced to 2 years in jail. The question, however, is whether these song lyrics even constitute any sort of crime.

Antavio Johnson plead no contest in order to avoid a longer jail sentence. Prosecutors in the case believed that the lyrics were a crime, not only because the rapper threatened police, but because he named two police officers specifically in the song.

In order to determine if this speech was a true threat, one must look at the totality of circumstances. The first is how listeners would react to hearing these lyrics. The police department obviously took this as a true threat, as did prosecutors, considering charges were brought against him. However, the main intended audience was fans of his work, so to truly understand how audiences felt, some T.O fans would have to be spoken to. Although no articles I have read speak to any of them, I would gather that most were not offended; many other rap songs also bash and threaten cops without crimes being brought against them, and most fans of the genre would probably understand that it is a song and nothing more.

The second factor is past experience. Although he was in jail at the time due to an unrelated probation violation, the fact that this seems to be a onetime event and not a pattern makes the speech less threatening. However, it would seem as though Johnson has some sort of history with these two cops to single them out, although the extent of that history is unknown. This exact history would have to be further investigated to truly understand the situation.

The third factor deals with whether or not the threat was directed toward an individual or not. This is where I believe things get a little tricky. Although the two officers were named in the song, the threats were not said directly to them; it is not as though Johnson went up to them on the street and verbalized the threats to them, and even that in itself doesn’t mean it’s a threat. The officers would have to listen to the song to even know the threat existed.

The final factor is whether or not the victim truly believes the threat will be carried out. In my opinion, I cannot see how the officers could honestly believe the threat would be carried out. Johnson was in jail at the time the lyrics were discovered, making it impossible for him to carry them out at the time. The lyrics and song were also between two and three years old, and he had not yet carried out the threats of killing the cops.

Would the average person see this as being a threat? The fact that he put it out there, put the “threat” in his music that, it today’s world, can literally be listened to by anybody, makes me think that this is not a true threat. If you wanted to truly kill someone, I don’t think making that wish public is very smart. The lyrics seem to be more of a way to venting frustration rather than a threat. I find these lyrics to be extremely stupid, but do not think they are a true threat, and believe he should not be serving time in jail because of them. The lyrics, in my opinion, are simply expression, and therefore should be protected by the First Amendment.

Below are links to 2 articles (one from FoxNews and the other from FoxTampa), as well as the lyrics of the song in question: