Connecticut Law Student Anya Bargh was arrested and charged with Harassment and breach of the peace for a series of online statements she has made. They were definitely in poor taste, some offensive, but there was not a pattern of conduct over time that would usually warrant a harassment charge. I won’t repeat them, but you can see what she said in the ATL story. We recently covered an injunction case in Lee County that was based on the new stalking law in Florida, and that speech was not found to constitute stalking by harassment. Speech, even offensive or critical speech, cannot be the basis for a crime: it is protected by the First Amendment. That speech won’t be protected if it is perceived as a threat.
Blogger Eugene Volokh does a good breakdown of the applicable statutes and Constitutional issues in this case. His conclusion, and one that is hard to legally disagree with, is that these words are protected speech, and cannot be criminalized under the Constitution. The analysis would be different in other countries. We may disagree with the statements of others, but unless they are making true threats, they have a right to share the offensive thoughts they might have. We, in turn, are permitted to vocalize our disagreement. That’s the way the founders set it up.