Q. Can I be properly convicted for republishing information related to matters of public concern where the information was illegally obtained by a stranger?
A. No. (However you may be wrongly convicted!)
The civil rights law firm of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C. defends persons facing charges for reposting or publishing information on matters of public concern protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Governments are not permitted under the First Amendment to “put the genie back in the bottle” when “sensitive” or “secret” information has been leaked to the public. The fact that the person responsible for the initial disclosure (together with any co-conspirators or those acting with that person) may properly face serious civil or criminal charges does not remove the First Amendment protections from the public into whose hands such information has been placed. The U.S. Supreme Court has addressed this in no uncertain words:
“[A] stranger’s illegal conduct does not suffice to remove the First Amendment shield from speech about a matter of public concern.” Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514, 535 (U.S. 2001)
Ill advised governments will from time to time attempt to chill the speech of citizens by threatening criminal prosecution against individuals who have acquired such information, illegally obtained by others. Unfortunately, the weight of such an attack by the government can be overwhelming, and pose a real chilling effect upon speech. In those circumstances, citizens should immediately seek 1st Amendment attorneys from the civil rights law firm of Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
The materials are prepared for information purposes only. The materials are not legal advice. You should not act upon the information without seeking the advice of an attorney. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship.
Thomas H. Roberts, Esq.
Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.
105 S 1st Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 783-2105 fax