California Supreme Court Rules Threats in Crime Cases Not Protected by 1st Amendment

Posted By Robert M. Bernstein || 26-Aug-2011

Recently, the California Supreme Court agreed to hear a First Amendment overbreadth challenge to a statute making it a crime to threaten retaliation against a victim or witness.


Eddie Lowery and his wife were originally accused of stealing $250,000 from a man who had hired them to clean his house. Lowery was acquitted of the theft crime, but his wife was convicted and sentenced to prison. In a monitored and recorded jailhouse telephone call, Lowery tells her that he is going to kill her accuser.

A jury convicted Lowery of making a threat and he was sentenced to a year in jail and three years probation. Lowery appealed the ruling, arguing that he was only venting anger against the accuser and that the state law against threatening victims and witnesses violated his 1st Amendment right to free speech.

The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled to uphold a state law making it illegal to threaten to harm crime victims or witnesses. Under California law, criminal threats are not protected by the 1st Amendment, whether the person intends to fulfill the threat or not. The law simply requires proof that a reasonable person would understand the statement to be a serious expression of an intent to commit violence.

If you, or someone you know has been charged with Criminal Threats, Making an Illegal Threat, Grand Theft or any other type of Theft Crime, contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, for a free consultation today.

Categories: Theft Offense

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