Your Civil Rights: Freedom of Speech Online

In 2012 a Wisconsin man, Thomas G. Smith, posted comments on the Village of Arena’s Police Department’s Facebook Page with profanity-laden allegations of department racism.

Instead of responding in a cordial manner, or just simply removing the posts, the police department ended up arresting Mr. Smith that night. He was later convicted of using “fighting words,” which adds up to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to community service and probation.

An appellate judge then threw out the case in 2014 saying that his comments were protected under the first amendment as free speech.

Soon after, Mr. Smith filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Arena’s Police Department alleging unreasonable search and that his civil rights were violated in an attempt to deter his free speech.

This suit was just ruled in his favor, and the damages awarded added up to $35,000 for the injustice as well as the damage done to his life and reputation because of a few off color (but still non-threatening) remarks.

This is just one instance where an individual’s civil rights were violated. In this situation, one person’s right to free speech.

Now, if people are to criticize those that serve and protect, even in a vulgar tone, they are allowed to do so without fear of arrest or intimidation because of the First Amendment.  This civil right also extends to all social media platforms.  As long as people do not threaten the lives or wellbeing of those being criticized, no matter how profane, there is no reason that they should be arrested and convicted of anything.

Needless to say, if anyone finds that their first amendment rights infringed upon, a qualified lawyer should be retained immediately to help navigate the choppy waters ahead.  Civil rights attorneys know how to evaluate the situation and choose the right strategy for any particular case.

If you need a qualified civil rights lawyer, our team here at 1-800-LAW-FIRM may be just who you need.  Give us a call, and one of our experienced attorneys will gladly speak with you free of charge about your particular case.