A 12-year-old girl that attends Roy J. Smith middle school in Killeen, Texas was arrested for making terroristic threats on social media rape, shoot, and torture other students at her school. The threats the student made on social media prompted thousands of students and their parents to be too scared to attend school on Wednesday. In fact, over 4,000 students missed school.
Students, family, and friends are encouraged to report these types of threats from students on social media; especially in the wake of yet another mass school shooting. However, these types of threats on social media, although very concerning, raise First Amendment freedom of speech protections as well as intent to commit a crime. Similar cases have been addressed recently by the Supreme Court of the United and the Texas Appellate Courts.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Elonis v. U.S. that the Government was required to but failed to prove that Elonis, who was going through a divorce and posted threats to kill his wife, had the intent to kill his wife. The Supreme Court did not reach the First Amendment issue that was raised. In 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals also addressed the constitutionality of Texas Penal Code 22.07, the Terroristic Threats section. In denying his pretrial writ of habeas corpus, the Court of Criminal Appeals found that Carter was actually challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, which cannot be raised in a pretrial writ. Justin Carter’s case has been say for trial in May 2018.