Fla. ban on publishing police info ruled unconstitutional

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge has struck down a Florida law 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 on April 30 that the law violates the First Amendment.

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 a Web site the address and cell phone number of a Tallahassee police officer along with statements criticizing her.

The charge was dismissed because the state violated Florida’s speedy trial law.

The judge found that while the state had a legitimate interest in protecting police officers from harm, the law did not advance this interest.

The statute “proscribes protected speech without being narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest, and is therefore unconstitutional and invalid,” Smoak wrote in Brayshaw v. Tallahassee.

Smoak also ordered the city to pay Brayshaw’s $25,000 legal expenses.

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