Cyber Harassment and Internet Defamation
By: Dee Wampler
Missouri law prohibits knowingly communicating a threat to another person if it frightens, intimidates, or causes emotional distress. You cannot use course language, offensive to one’s “average sensibility” that puts another person in reasonable apprehension of offensive physical conduct, contact, or harm.
Court decisions are sorting out just how far First Amendment protection extends to private expression on the internet to define “subjective intent to threaten”.¹
Speech is protected by the First Amendment but one exception is the “true threats” exception.² Hosting intimidating comments about a woman on a Facebook page may instill fear in the target of the rant.³
Emailing threats, worrying others, and making false online posts are forms of protected speech.* Prosecutors will have difficulty proving evidence of the speakers intent to harm as courts consider the liberty of the rights of free speech.
¹18 U.S. Code 875(c).
²Watts v. U.S., 394 U.S. 705 (1969).
³Elonis v. U.S., 575 U.S. ___ (2015).
*Commonwealth v. Johnson, 96 Crim.L. 352 (MA 2014).
At the Law Offices of Dee Wampler & Joseph Passanise, Dee Wampler draws from more than four decades of legal experience in defending clients accused of an array of crimes throughout southwestern Missouri, including Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City. As a Springfield native, Mr. Wampler understands the nuances of the Missouri court system, but he is an equally formidable criminal trial attorney in high-profile federal cases involving serious charges. His work has earned him recognition across the country and even internationally. Several nationally syndicated television shows, including “Saturday Night with Connie Chung,” “Inside Edition” and ABC’s “Primetime” have featured his cases, and Missouri Lawyers Weekly has showcased his work approximately 20 times.