Sep 222009
 
 September 22, 2009  Posted by  Court, Featured News, Govt, Laws, Online, U.S.

Robert Brayshaw says that the City of Tallahassee arrested and prosecuted him twice for publishing a police officer’s address online at Ratemycop.com. Now Brayshaw is challenging the constitutionality of Florida Statute §843.17, which states:

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.

Brayshaw contends that the statute interferes with his First Amendment rights and that the information he published was not only truthful but was publicly available on the Web already. As alleged in the complaint:

One of Plaintiff’s postings, on March 31, 2008 (the only posting he made that day) stated:

Annette Pickett Garrett, 47 years old, 7 kids, Single, Divorced Anthony Edward “Tony” Drzewiecki, 38 yo, Home: 1929 xxxxxxxxx Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32303-7123, Home Est. $167,500. Built in 1973, 1669 square feet. Cingular Cell-Phone: (xxx) xxx-xxxx, E-Mail Address: [email protected]

This personal information regarding Officer Garrett was truthful and, at the time, publicly available. Plaintiff obtained this information through searches on the Internet. In fact, Officer Garrett’s name and address are still publicly available on the Leon County Clerk of Court’s website at:
http://cvweb.clerk.leon.fl.us/cvimage/official_records/download_document.asp?book=3644&page=02266&type=OR&subnet= (last visited September 18, 2009).

(Note: all of the officer’s details are provided in unredacted form in the complaint, but I have redacted some of them here — Dissent)

In some sense, this case is reminiscent of The Virginia Watchdog case. Although that case was in Virginia, the federal judge presiding over that case wrote:

“The relevant case law is clear that, if the State wishes to claim that the confidentiality of a certain piece of information is a State interest of the highest order, then the State should not make that information publicly available.”

Will the Florida courts agree with that line of reasoning?

Hat-tip, Courthouse News

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