Florida Man Challenges Law Criminalizing the Publication of Address and Telephone of Police Officers

thumb_policeman_cartoonThere is an interesting case developing in Florida where Robert Brayshaw is facing a year in jail under a law that makes it a crime to post a local police officer’s phone number and address. The law raises serious constitutional questions under the first amendment. Brayshaw posted the information on a site called ratemycop.

His prosecution was thrown out under a violation of the state’s speedy trial provision, but he is now challenging the law itself for good reason. The law criminalizes any publication of the information in any form.

The statute, Fla. Stat. 843.17, states:

843.17 Publishing name and address of law enforcement officer.–Any person who shall maliciously, with intent to obstruct the due execution of the law or with the intent to intimidate, hinder, or interrupt any law enforcement officer in the legal performance of his or her duties, publish or disseminate the residence address or telephone number of any law enforcement officer while designating the officer as such, without authorization of the agency which employs the officer, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

The language is remarkably vague and sweeping. It would presumably cover everything from passing a note to taking out an ad in the New York Times. The use of words like “hinder” and “interrupt” are highly questionable in such a law limiting speech. Finally, if this is public information, it is unclear how you criminalize it being shared with other members of the public.

In Brayshaw’s case, he published comments about Tallahassee Police Officer Annette Garrett with her name and home address. He complained that she was rude to him when investigating a trespass call at an apartment complex where he is the manager. He was arrested and spent a night in jail in May 2008. What is amazing is that prosecutors went as far as to subpoena records from Ratemycop and the defendant’s ISP. The case is an example of how confidential information on the Internet is now subject to the most trivial or questionable claims from government offices. The prosecutors demanded the information even though Garrett’s information appears on the Leon County Clerk of the Court’s website in Florida.

Thecase of Brayshaw v. City of Tallahassee was filed September 18, 2009.

For the full story, click here.

9 thoughts on “Florida Man Challenges Law Criminalizing the Publication of Address and Telephone of Police Officers”

  1. It lets you be safe even though you may have to access the
    Internet in a public area. Your favorite movie names, what they are called of the
    cartoon character or favorite band name or names only heroes like Batman, The Dark Knight, Superman,
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    companies to sue governments attemptring to keep them beyond protected areas; by banks fighting financial regulation;
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    to modify off atomic power.

  2. Honorable Federal Judge Richard Smoak struck down Florida Statute 843.17 on April 30, 2010 that was unconstitutional on its face and as applied for a false arrest that made it a crime to publish police officers’ addresses and phone numbers to intimidate, hinder or interfere with their duties. U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ruled that the law violates free speech rights to Rob Brayshaw And All American Citizens. Smoak ruled in favor of a Tallahassee man, Robert Brayshaw, who challenged the law with help from the American Civil Liberties Union. Brayshaw had been charged with violating the law for posting on the Ratemycop.com website the address and cell phone number along with criticisms of a Tallahassee police officer. The charge was dismissed because the state violated Florida’s speedy trial law. Smoak also ordered the city to pay Brayshaw’s $25,000 in legal expenses for his false arrest as unconstitutional for being falsely and wrongfully applied to the law. The State of Florida paid $35,000 for the attorney fees for the legal challenge of the law being unconstitutional on its face. The ACLU attorney fees alone to Rob Brayshaw were $60,000 for the challenge to the City Of Tallahassee And State Of Florida. Sources state that the case cost over $100,000.00 to tax payers for the illegal investigation, false arrest, two false charges and the Constitutional Challenges to both the City And State. If publishing any name, address or a phone number was a crime, all americans would be criminals. Wired Magazine billed the case as the “Dumbest Ever” as handled by the City of Tallahassee. Judge Smoak clearly stated that the actions of Rob Brayshaw were “constitutionally protected” as there was no threat to a police officer at all. This means that if the law was even written as constitutional to be applied by the City of Tallahassee, it did not apply to the actions of Rob Brayshaw for the false arrest by Tallahassee Police Officers. Federal Judge Richard Smoak clearly stated that “The publication of truthful personal information about police officers is linked to the issue of police accountability through aiding in achieving service of process, researching criminal history of officers, organizing lawful pickets, and other peaceful and lawful forms of civic involvement that publicize the issue. Furthermore, Plaintiff as an individual is afforded no less rights than those afforded to the media, nor is the level of First Amendment scrutiny altered by the fact that the internet was the medium used by Plaintiff. See Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders, Inc., 472 U.S. 749, 784, 105 S.Ct. 2939 (1985); Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 870, 117 S.Ct. 2329 (1997). Thus, Plaintiff’s speech, and that proscribed by § 843.17, is protected by the First Amendment.”



  3. Rotting the soul to the core. Not just decay, a root canal should fix the city. Extraction without medication, that would be the ticket.

    Lets see, Bad Cop, Bad Day rates incarceration and an invitation to stay.

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