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Speech / First Amendment Law

Cases: United States v. Baker
(Actual Text)
The First Amendment has also been found to afford Internet users themselves important protections against federal criminal prosecutions based on the content of e-mail messages that those users send. In United States v. Baker, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan was confronted with a criminal prosecution based on a statute outlawing threats transmitted in interstate or foreign commerce. At issue were a number of e-mail messages sent by a Michigan resident to an unknown Canadian, which threatened sexual violence against unspecified women and young girls.

The court held that the First Amendment limited what sort of content could be prosecuted regardless whether the medium was an e-mail, regular mail or a phone call. On the facts of the case, the court ruled that no prosecution could be brought with respect to any of the e-mail messages either because no specific potential victim was clearly identified or no statement of an intention to act was present.

In addition to the First Amendment, one court has also held that the federal Constitution's Commerce Clause severely limits the states' ability to prohibit certain speech on the Internet. The Commerce Clause, in part, restricts the individual states' ability to interfere with the flow of interstate commerce directly or indirectly.

Copyright SRBC 1998 up