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Too many people are getting arrested now days for empty threats.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Discussion' started by JoshCube, Jun 20, 2014.

  1. JoshCube

    JoshCube Well-Known Member

    EDIT: This is in reference to the Justin Carter and Dakota Berntd cases.

    I keep seeing people in the news getting arrested for "threats" that aren't being directed towards anyone or any place. Many people are getting arrested for typing paragraphs on Face Book saying that they feel like shooting up a school, but from what I have read on law websites, a threat has to be directed towards an actual entity. None of these threats are being directed, so I don't see how it actually qualifies as a "true threat". Usually, the charge is dropped, but replaced with misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct.

    Here's the exact interpretation from the Wisconsin legislator.

    "A "true threat" is a statement that a speaker would reasonably foresee that a listener would reasonably interpret as a serious expression of a purpose to inflict harm, as distinguished from hyperbole, jest, innocuous talk, expressions of political views, or other similarly protected speech. It is not necessary that the speaker have the ability to carry out the threat. State v. Perkins, 2001 WI 46, 243 Wis. 2d 141, 626 N.W.2d 762, 99-1924."

    So based on what this says, a person can simply be arrested for writing a short novel on a school shooting. Let's say for example some guy lives close to a high school, and writes a short novel titled "The day I shot up a high school". Even though this novel is clearly fictional and not directed, he can still be arrested as long as someone feels threatened by this content. I think the statute is vague and conflicts with free speech.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2014
  2. Ryuken

    Ryuken Steel User

    Its better to prevent something from happening than risk it happen some day in the future. And in my opinion, if these people have nothing better to do than write offensive messages in public web pages that any paranoid person can see, they would do about the same for society that they will do in prison.
    Also, joking is not an excuse for writing these kind of statements, and could even tell that the person is mentally unstable, all the more reason for it to be arrested. A little example would be if i run around a police station with a plastic bag full of baby powder and saying it is in fact cocaine, i would then be immediately arrested, and i would get in trouble, even if they notice it was joke.
    Keep in mind that in these times "free speech" is a bit of a vague concept, when you start thinking about it, one realizes it is pretty much non existent.
  3. JoshCube

    JoshCube Well-Known Member

    Back in the day, it used to be that the threat had to be directed towards an actual entity. Now days, it doesn't even have to be directed. If you look at both of the Carter and Bendt cases, they never mentioned the name of the school when they made their violent comment. I've heard many people say stuff like "I feel like killing a clown today", or "I should kill a construction worker". The fact that the threat becomes more valid because the suspect lives close to a carnival or a construction zone is silly. I understand freedom of speech can be vague at times, but if you look closely at this law, it realistically means a person can be punished over making simple comments that don't involve a specific person or place.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2014
  4. T5000X

    T5000X Indivijul

    Arresting people for making clearly hollow threats or poor jokes is not how the modern justice system is supposed to work. However, I wouldn't have a fit about being arrested. Being prosecuted is a completely different story. We don't take someones freedom away just because they offend or scare certain people in a public setting.
  5. emawerna

    emawerna Well-Known Member

    Freedom of speech never included direct threats to a specific person (based on content), but freedom of speech ALSO never included the classic example of falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater, a restriction not based on content but instead based on the effect of the words spoken and the context or lack thereof.

    The problem with the internet is that it lacks the ability to accurately transmit context. No, people don't know that you are some middle class kid with too much free time. You could be a terrorist, and people do always imagine that some vague location could be close to their homes. That you turn out to be a very sympathetic kid who is very, very sorry doesn't change how authorities were forced to react prior to discovering your true identity or your motive.

    Personalizing the speaker must, in fairness, also include personalizing the listeners/readers. Here, we'll presume the offended/threatened person is being genuine and is not being a troll.

    Question: Let's say that the person writing the short story about a school shooting didn't post it on the internet but instead went to a local crowded diner and read it out loud. All the tables are taken by people of different walks of life, different constitutions, and different tastes. The city is large enough that they don't know each other. Some chat while others play with their cell phones or stare into their cups of coffee as if willing them to contain more caffeine. Suddenly, a voice is heard in the din of the diner reading a story. Slowly, the level of chatting decreases because some of the people are listening. The story is quite disturbing in its content, but it doesn't mention specific times or places. A high school aged girl who tends to get nervous slowly turns pale as the story progresses. She can't finish her bagel. She gets up and talks to the waitress. "Ma'am, call the police. I believe that guy is planning to do something."

    Do you feel differently about this girl than if I had simply said that a random person complained about the story? Yet, it is the same story, and it is the same girl.
    Everyone, both speakers and listeners, gains sympathy if you know more about them because they are all real living individuals with their own back stories. As a society, we shouldn't make rules where we decide in favor of someone simply because we are familiar with small trivial but personalizing details of their lives like whether they were eating a bagel.

    If you were wondering why this sort of thing didn't happen more in the past, it is more obvious that one should watch one's tongue in a crowded diner with visible strangers listening than on the internet where the strangers are invisible. If you never say anything on the internet that you wouldn't freely say in your normal voice in a diner full of strangers, you'll be fine. If you would be escorted out of the diner for what you are about to say, you shouldn't be saying it on the internet either.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2014
  6. T5000X

    T5000X Indivijul

    You can be banned from forums and online communities much the same way as you'd get banned from a restaurant. And that example is probably the worst argument I've ever heard. A diner and the internet are about as comparable as fire and water. People on the internet aren't just going into a forum and threatening everyone there is. They're yelling at each other over heated debates in anonymous chat rooms. How did we get from the internet, which is notorious for complete anonymity and trolls, to the real world? You aren't as anonymous in real life as you think you are.
    There's also a big difference between someone saying they'd commit an act of violence randomly in a forum than someone like Elliot Rodger who made several videos detailing the fact that he had clear mental issues and even one where he said he was about to go out and kill people in a few minutes.
  7. PrincessAbsol

    PrincessAbsol Active Member

    I don't think people should be arrested for making threats, but posting online and saying that you're going to shoot up a school is also not okay. It's important for authorities to take things like that seriously, because if they wind up being true everybody who saw it and did nothing will look like a fool.
    People who do those kinds of things need help, not jail time. It's not like locking up a high schooler with a bunch of other violent criminals is going to make him or her stop saying and possibly doing violent things; quite the opposite.
    A country's justice system should be focused on rehabilitation and therapy instead of retribution. Eye for an eye has never solved any problems.
  8. emeraldellie

    emeraldellie Δ Staff Member Admin

    sorry but i dont feel bad in the slightest for anyone getting arrested for that kind of stuff. perhaps none of you have ever been on the other end of it, but it can be terrifying getting messages from someone saying they know where you live and theyre going to "make you pay" for doing whatever. in my case nothing ever actually happened and they were probably just 12 year olds trolling, but i don't know that while it is happening. someday it could actually be a stalker. people need to learn that scaring other people to be edgy or troll or whatever is not okay, and if getting arrested for it knocks some sense into them i'm all for it. and if someone actually is psychopathic and would do something like that, then by arresting them they can be removed from causing harm to other people and put into rehabilitation programs if at all possible.
  9. PrincessAbsol

    PrincessAbsol Active Member

    Getting arrested isn't going to knock some sense into them. Being sent to prison doesn't make people repent and turn to a pure, honest life without crime, dishonesty, and cruelty; according to a census run by the BJS covering 30 states in the USA, 3 in 4 criminals arrested in 2005 were arrested again by 2010 (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rprts05p0510pr.cfm). The idea that we can punish people by locking them up with other criminals and somehow "fix" them is ludicrous. 75% of the time, they will commit another crime.
    I'm not saying to let people who threaten others continue doing so without repercussions, but jail time for an offense that doesn't physically harm another person seems like overkill, especially in a situation where they become even more likely to become a career criminal after their first arrest.
  10. EmptyKyurem

    EmptyKyurem Member

    I would much rather have someone arrested for an empty threat than have them actually carry something out. You just don't know how serious a person could be about it.
  11. LDSman

    LDSman Banned

    You actually can yell fire in a theater. If someone panics and gets hurt, then you can and should be held responsible for what happened. That case was overturned a few years later.

    As far as threats go? It depends on the circumstances. Too many are being treated as zero tolerances so you end up with someone who wrote a story for a class project getting arrested because the teacher decided it was a threat. Public comments on a facebook page, specific statements against a school or person should be treated very seriously. Generic statements like "Sometimes I just want to kill the customers" may need a welfare check or a "be careful what you say" warning. People do vent. Venting is good for you. Keeping all the rage bottled up is unhealthy.
  12. spaceboundaries

    spaceboundaries Only time will tell

    A cop said he was going to arrest me for walking on an empty street for three minutes
  13. -Nator-

    -Nator- Psyperiority

    And as for the smart criminals who keep silent?
    Yeah, thought so.
  14. Hitchslapmon

    Hitchslapmon Member

    At some point you draw the line. Yes it's freedom of speech to say such things, but it's the same reason why it isn't a good idea to google how to build a bomb or say "I have a bomb" on a plane. Recent tragedies tend to put a greater emphasis on these phrases, and as such, unless you live under a rock, you should probably be careful about what you say. Especially if you're stupid enough to post that on the Internet, where you are easily tracked.
  15. Hitchslapmon

    Hitchslapmon Member

    So... Prevent the stupid ones and arrest the smart ones later..???
  16. ShinyUmbreon189

    ShinyUmbreon189 RealTalkRealFlow

    You can get arrested for literally anything whether it's illegal or not, the judicial system's so corrupt that it's out of hand. A few months ago I got a flat tire, 2 police cars showed up, illegally searched my car, and arrested me for having a light bulb and classified it as "paraphernalia". They obviously don't know the difference between a light bulb and paraphernalia, they just want "money" and they will do everything in their power to pin a charge on you. My public defender is literally laughing at it and says it's a complete waste of time. If convicted I'm looking at a $500 fine for something that's completely legal to have. So to this day I've lost all respect for the law.

    The reason I stated my case was it's similar to the discussion in this thread that police officers are arresting illegally. Making a threat isn't illegal and as I said the police force will arrest you for anything they please now a days. Getting arrested for threats isn't the only issue, cops are abusing their power more and more, and the more they do it the more respect I lose for them.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2014

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