On Law Talk, Attorney Steve Sabra, of Sabra and Aspden Law Offices of the greater Somerset area, discussed a case out of Pennsylvania, that applies to a similar case in the local Somerset area, about posts on Facebook dealing with the difference between a crime being committed because it’s a type of threat vs the protections we are afforded as citizens under the First Amendment. In this case, a man was convicted of posting violent threats on Facebook in the form of rap lyrics about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a school, and slitting the throat of an FBI agent.

His lawyers argued that he did not mean to threaten anybody, it was under a pseudonym, and it was a way of venting his frustration about splitting up with his wife. The government argued that it is not subject intent, in other words it is not what the defendant intended, but more so what a reasonable person would consider feel threatened. The judges and U.S. Supreme Court are questioning if these lyrics on Facebook would make a reasonable person feel threatened or if it is too broad and protected under the First Amendment. The judges and U.S. Supreme Court are supposed to handle just this case but it also sets a precedent, which they are being careful about.

One of the judges asked, “How can you prove what is in someone’s mind?” The defense lawyer responded that you look at context through other records, such as what is on their computer or phone, and nowadays kids post statuses on Facebook that are ill-timed and they end up in jail.

In the past, the Supreme Court has said that true threats to harm another person are not protected but you have to distinguish between protected speech and political hyperbole or unpleasant sharp attacks. One of the judges mentioned Eminem’s songs saying that one of his lyrics should have him prosecuted. The wife testified in the trial that the lyrics posted on Facebook made her fear for her life and that is why she is getting a protective order. Also, a female FBI agent went to his home to ask about the posting, and the defendant also made a threat to her on Facebook after she had questioned him.

It is not surprising that he was convicted. But the judges have to make a distinction of whether it was a political hyperbole, unpleasant sharp attacks, or not. This would be a tough case for them to think this is protected under the First Amendment, but maybe they will use this to come up with more of a fine line as to what is protected and what is not.

Divorce 2

7 Things Not to Do When Going Through a Divorce

Going through a divorce is tricky and a lot of emotions can get in the way. Going through a divorce is never ideal and being in court against your ex-spouse can cloud your judgment. This can make you forget certain important aspects of the process and there may be other things you are unfamiliar with as well. Here are a few things to remember while going through the process of a divorce:

Don’t increase debt. Going through divorce is expensive. You will have to pay attorney’s fees, legal bills, and court costs all probably before you receive alimony and your share of everything. Cut down on spending for a while, as you will have to save up for setting up your new household. This may worry some people and withhold them from going through with a divorce, but staying in a bad marriage because of your finances is never the right choice.

Don’t settle too quickly. Just because you want to get out of your marriage as quickly as possible, does not mean you should do anything too hasty without thinking what is best for you financially. Be sure to do what is best for you and your kids before emotions get the better of you in court.

Don’t forget about those taxes. When going to court, you will need to remember your balance sheet of the family’s assets and debts, your accounting sheet of the family’s income and expenses, and your tax return. Also keep in mind what the best financial situation is for you. For instance, the person who is awarded custody of children often gets the house, but if you cannot afford the mortgage, taxes, upkeep, etc. then maybe your best course is to instead ask for the investment portfolio of equal value instead.

Don’t wait. Don’t wait until after the holidays, a birthday, an anniversary, a vacation, or until things get better if you know they are not. The longer you hold it off the more difficult it is going to be for you.

Don’t refuse to see a therapist. When coping with separation, it is important to take care of your psychological health. Maybe you need to discuss your issues you are facing with a therapist to sort things out and achieve a better state of mind during this difficult time.

Don’t dismiss collaborative divorce or mediation. Collaborative divorce seeks the help of an attorney, divorce coach, and/or therapist to divide properties and manage stress, which can be a lot less work for you and can assure you the divorce process is going efficiently. Using a divorce mediator helps you and your spouse reach an agreement on dividing properties as an on-going process.

Don’t forget to change your will. If you created a will prior to your divorce, you probably had your spouse as the primary beneficiary of your money and privileges granted to them. You can re-do your will at any time and change the primary beneficiary to a family member or friend that you trust.

With over 35 years in the Fall River, Somerset, Swansea, New Bedford, and Assonet Areas, Southern New England’s best divorce attorneys are Sabra and Aspden.