For a lot of people, the application of the law is simple. If you violate the terms listed in a specific state or federal statute, you have committed a crime and should therefore be punished in accordance with the law. But while this is the case across the nation, there is another element to the law that most people overlook and it is the application of case law as well.
As our less frequent readers may not know, case law includes court decisions for the purposes of properly applying the law in specific situations. By turning to case law, judges can make more informed decisions, thereby applying the law fairly and sometimes more consistently from case to case. But a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision might complicate the application of case law, particularly here in California, when it comes to certain Internet crimes.
Back in December last year, as some of our regular readers may remember, we talked about online threats in one of our posts. Considered a crime here in California, anyone who threatens another person with bodily harm or death faces the possibility of criminal charges, even if the aggressor does not intend on following through with their threat. If the person receiving the threat fears for their life or it’s believed that the threat could be carried out, prosecution is possible.
But the application of this law may become more complicated in the years to come. This is because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court was presented with a challenging question: are aggressive remarks made online protected by the First Amendment if intent cannot be proven? According to the high court, the answer is yes when applying federal law.
This court decision could potentially complicate cases here in California because it could make applying case law more challenging for judges in our state. For defendants, this will mean putting forward a stronger defense initially and even preparing for the possibility that they may need to appeal a court decision if the proper application of case law does not occur.