The tension between the First Amendment and privacy rights (RateMyCop.com case)

November 20, 2009

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/09/publishingcrime/

A Florida man facing a year in jail for the online posting of a local police officer’s phone number and address is challenging the 37-year-old state law on First Amendment grounds.Arizona is believed to be the only other state with a similar law. A similar Washington state law was overturned on First Amendment grounds in 2004.

The Florida federal court case is being brought by Robert Brayshaw, who posted the personal information of a Florida officer last year on the popular website Ratemycop. The statute does not require that the information be published on the internet. A local judge tossed the case on procedural grounds, saying prosecutors failed to bring the case to trial within Florida’s 90-day speedy trial rules.

Brayshaw’s attorney, James Green, said his 34-year-old client was the only person ever facing trial for allegedly violating the 1972 law that carries a maximum one-year jail term. His client brought suit (.pdf) Friday in federal court to overturn the law in a bid to continue exercising his First Amendment rights of speech, Green said.

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