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Supreme Court Considering the Question of Social Media Threats

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Millions of Americans are on social media- sharing photos, what they eat, and most importantly, their opinions. This contentious issue keeps coming up with the current events that have lead people to vent out their feelings of frustration. All over the country, anecdotal stories are popping up over people being arrested for making "threats" against police officers or making "terrorist threats."

Most recently at the battleground of the internet is the Eric Sheppard challenge. In this case, a #BlackLivesMatter protestor was photographed walking on the American flag at Georgia's Valdosta State University. He is now missing, and authorities are looking for him because they claim campus police found a gun in his backpack. He is suspected of making terrorist threats and under investigation of the FBI. Meanwhile, young people have taken to social media to document their #EricSheppardChallenge as an attempt to express their 1st Amendment rights. Meanwhile, a purported ISIS "hit list" targeting Washington state military members made its rounds online two weeks ago, as it included the names, addresses, and photos of specific military members in Washington.

While there is definitely cause for concern for legitimate public safety issues, the U.S. Supreme Court is currently wrestling with the legal question of what is a "true threat," in the case of Elonis v. United States.

Social Media

The law is still developing over whether social media threats are free speech, or legitimate criminal threats. Oftentimes, the person posting social media statements is not ‘sending them' to the intended target so the person(s) threatened may not be placed in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out.

The Current Standard for "Threats"

Criminal threats can be either a gross misdemeanor or felony in Washington, depending on the circumstances and severity. Prosecutors have the discretion to decide. The standard test is that they must prove the person you 'threatened' had a reasonable fear for his or her safety under the circumstances. In Washington, threats towards a person are covered under "Harassment"- which covers the crimes of assault, malicious harrassment, stalking, and cyberstalking. See Chapter 9a.46 of the RCW. Additionally, Washington makes a bomb threat or a threat to injure property a Class B Felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

"Let My Extensive Experience as a Former Prosecutor Work For You."

Whether it be a felony or misdemeanor, criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi is committed to obtaining the best result possible for every individual client. As a former prosecutor, Mr. Karimi has extensive knowledge of criminal procedure and the inner workings of the “other side.” He has successfully represented many defendants, including those with criminal threat charges. Oftentimes, the accusations are exaggerated or frivolous, and the person could not have “reasonably” feared for his or her safety. Whether that's dismissal or reduction of charges, a not-guilty verdict, or an alternative sentence, Mr. Karimi will seek the best options available to your defense. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime, including making a criminal threat, call the Law Offices of Steve Karimi today. You can also e-mail us now to set up an appointment.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

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Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.