For many, a statement on a social media website may seem as just that: a statement. However, that statement can lead to a criminal charge that can cause one suffer greatly at the hands of a powerful state-operated legal system. If one has been accused of such a crime, one should obtain an experienced attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights are protected.
According to the Florida Times-Union, Brunswick police officer Barbara Hartman asked Magistrate Wallace Harrell on Thursday to issue one warrant charging the Rev. Ken Adkins with making false statements or writings and concealing facts from or submitting false documents to the government. She also asked Harrell to issue a “good behavior” warrant to compel Adkins to stop saying bad things about her on Facebook. On Facebook, Adkins accused her of using her police powers to access his criminal history and had named her and her sign company in relationship to an internal affairs investigation.
There are many types of warrants that exist within the legal system. However, one of those types that is not well known is the good behavior warrant. Generally, good behavior warrants are issued only in cases to prevent people from harming or harassing others by direct contact. However, there has been an effort to use good behavior warrants to prevent critical speech on Facebook.
In this case, the parallel crime that an accused party would be charged with in Florida would be Libel, a first degree misdemeanor under Florida Statute 836.01, exposing the accused to up to a year in jail and expensive fines, as well as any other restitution requirements the Judge may require if the charge is proved. These requirements may include letters of apology, printed advertisements negating the false statements, and other measures to remedy the harmful effects of the statements made.
Libel is defined as defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures. In order to prove that libel has occurred:
– the person must prove that the statement was false.
– the person must prove that the statement caused harm.
– the person must prove that the statement was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement.
If the person is a celebrity or a public official, the person must also prove that the statement was made with the intent to do harm or with reckless disregard for the truth.
Statements made in a good faith and reasonable belief that they were true are generally treated as true statements and as such are defensible, but only if the defendant also demonstrated that publication was for the “Public Benefit”. Public interest is generally not “what the public is interested in”, but rather “what is in the interest of the public.” In other words, defendant must also show that there is a well-founded public interest in the specific information being widely known.
In this case, Adkins told Harrell he had suspicions that Hartman used her position as a police officer to access the National Crime Information Center to get Adkins’ records and post the information on Facebook under the “rogue” account of Liberty Belle. Using the center for anything but official police business is illegal.
Furthermore, Adkins told Harrell that Hartman has a stake in Tucker’s race because Tucker buys campaign signs from Hartman .Adkins’ statements may be saved by the fact that he also stated within the statement the phrase, “what I believed’’, just as Green instructed. Adkins told the Times-Union Thursday the internal affairs investigation did not provide any real answers. It just said the investigator could not access the necessary information without a warrant. “They didn’t say it wasn’t done. They just haven’t told me who did it,’’ Adkins said.
Many times in Jacksonville, people may be accused of criminal libel, slander or other defamation crime. For those accused, the difficulty of defending one’s statements may seem difficult to do, even though one might have thought the statements were true when one made them. If one has been in accused of a crime like this, one should obtain an experienced Jacksonville libel defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights are protected.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source:Georgia judge considering whether Facebook speech is a crime, Terry Dickson, The Florida Times-Union