Last week, a Florida appeals court determined that posting a message on your personal Facebook page is equivalent to sending a written message, under the Florida law prohibiting sending written threats to harm someone. The law, Fla. Stat. § 836.10, makes a "written threat to kill or do bodily injury" a second-degree felony and punishable by 15 years in prison. The case is O'Leary v. State, and you can find the opinion by clicking here.
The message of the post threatened to "f*** [the victim] up and bury [the victim]" and the posting person would "tear the concrete up with [the victim's] face and drag [the victim] back to [the victim's] doorstep." However, the defendant argued that he never "sent" the message because he never asked anyone to view the message, nor did he address the message to any person. The court disagreed and found that by posting the message to Facebook, the defendant intended for others to read the post and that was tantamount to "sending."
The law prohibiting written threats has been on Florida's books for a long time, but a recent amendment (2010) added "electronic communications" to the types of prohibited communication. This case is an example of how Facebook users may not fully appreciate the consequences of their posts. It also demonstrates how an appellate court helps interpret laws.
If you have any questions about this case or other Internet crimes, contact our lawyers at Taylor & Waldrop, with offices in St. Augustine and Tallahassee.