The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of R.D. on Thursday, December 30, 2016.
Social Media—Juvenile Delinquent—Harassment—First Amendment—Right to Free Speech—True Threats—Fighting Words.
R.D., a high school student, argued with a student from a different high school through tweets on the social networking website Twitter. The People filed a petition in delinquency against R.D., and the district court adjudicated R.D. a juvenile delinquent based on conduct that would constitute harassment if committed by an adult.
On appeal, R.D. argued that C.R.S. § 18-9-111(1)(e) as applied to his conduct violated his First Amendment right to free speech. The People responded that R.D.’s statements were not protected by the First Amendment because they were true threats and fighting words. While the language of R.D.’s tweets was violent and explicit, R.D.’s tweets did not constitute true threats because they were not “a serious expression of an intent to commit an act of unlawful violence to a particular individual or group of individuals.” Fighting words can occur only when the speaker is in close physical proximity to the recipient. R.D. was not in close physical proximity to A.C. at the time of the incident. Because R.D.’s statements were neither true threats nor fighting words, the statute as applied violated his First Amendment rights.
The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded with directions to vacate the adjudication of juvenile delinquency and dismiss the proceeding.
Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.