Is it a crime to post a joke about a mass threat? Florida’s law makes it a crime to publish such a threat, including posts on social media, and does not require that there be an actual harmful intent. In a few weeks, a Florida appellate court will determine if the law will stand.
David Puy, and 18-year old in West Boca Raton, made a post on Snapchat that said, “On my way, school shooter!” He says he was actually on his way to meet friends for dinner, and meant it as a joke. There’s no indication he had nefarious plans, or even owned any guns, but posting the language that sounds like a threat made it a crime. The fact that he claims to be joking does not make a difference under Florida’s latest version of the threat law, updated after the shooting a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Puy challenged the law unsuccessfully at the trial level, and the case is now on appeal. It’s’ believed to be the first to challenge the Constitutional validity of the new version of Florida law. The issue is whether or not his words, which do not meet the historical definition of a true threat, are protected by the First Amendment. The appellate court is scheduled to hear oral arguments March 10, though it will likely be several months before the ruling is released.