CIR Targets Feds' “Threatening” Speech Law

Today CIR filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in the case Elonis v. United States.  CIR notes in its brief that the federal statute under which Elonis was convicted is silent on the question of intent. The brief goes on to point out that courts have been evenly divided over the question of whether the statute requires proof of the subjective intent to threaten or whether merely writing or saying something that someone else reasonably takes to be a threat is enough.

CIR argues that in the absence of a clear statement by Congress about what level of intent must be proven, the Court should interpret the statute narrowly so as not to intrude on the traditional responsibility of the states to define and punish crimes against persons.  CIR argues that this result is in keeping with our federalist system and is further supported by recent Supreme Court cases in which the Court has endeavored to preserve the authority of states, as opposed to the federal government, over criminal law.

Photo: “#21 :: 01/21/10 :: I program in my sleep.” by Rachel Johnson licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.