Thousands of sex offenders have been prosecuted for engaging in activity which most of us take for granted. In many jurisdictions, it is a felony for a registered sex offender to access the internet for any reason. Some statutes also prohibit offenders from creating Facebook profiles using LinkedIn, or using any forms of social media. These prohibitions make it virtually impossible for offenders to even own a smartphone. They create great hardship, preventing people from seeking jobs, places to live, or even from communicating with family members. The recent Supreme Court case of Packingham v. North Carolina makes it clear that such blanket prohibitions will no longer withstand judicial scrutiny.
The firm has once again been ranked a Tier 1 law firm by U.S. News - Best Lawyers in America for 2017. This ranking is based "on vigorous evaluation process that includes the collection of client and lawyer evaluations, peer review from leading attorneys in their field, and review of additional information provided by law firms as part of the formal submission process." The firm earned Tier 1 ranking in the following areas of practice: appellate practice, criminal defense: general practice, criminal defense: white collar, employment law - individuals, and First Amendment Law. Individual members of the firm are also listed by Best Lawyers in these practice areas. Mr. Sheppard previously has been recognized as Lawyer of the Year in the areas of non-white collar criminal defense, white collar criminal defense and employment law - individuals (2010, 2012, and 2014), in recognition of his decades of expertise in those areas of practice.
A recent case argued before the United States Supreme Court, Packingham v. North Carolina, may shake up how the government can regulate the internet activity. The petition involves a First Amendment challenge to a North Carolina law that imposes criminal penalties to registered sex offenders who visit "social media sites," such as Facebook or Youtube, where users can communicate or exchange information with minors. The case arises from a sex-offender who was prosecuted for posting the phrase "God is Good!" on Facebook to celebrate the dismissal of a traffic ticket.
The Supreme Court of the United States is currently tackling a major issue: when do comments on social media cross the line from protected speech to illegal threats? See Elonis v. United States, Docket No. 13-983. In this modern age of Twitter, Facebook, chat-rooms, and other social media platforms, drawing the line between free speech and illegal threats is no simple task.
Once again, members of the firm have been selected by their peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America for 2015. Mr. Kachergus was selected in the practice area of Criminal Defense: White Collar and Non-White Collar. Ms. White was selected in the practice area of Appellate Practice and Criminal Defense: Non-White Collar. Mr. Sheppard was selected in five practice areas: Appellate Practice, Criminal Defense: Non-White Collar, Criminal Defense: White Collar, Employment Law - Individuals and First Amendment Law.
For those who find themselves in the cross-hairs of a lawsuit for blogging, there is one guiding principle: the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because blogs enjoy such protection, they do not constitute "cyber-stalking" for injunctive purposes, unless they are being used "to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images or language...directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose." §784.048(1)(d) (Fla. Stat. (2013); Chevaldine v. R.K./Fl. Management, Inc., ___ So.3d ___, 2014 WL 443977 (Fla. 3d DCA Feb. 5, 2014); Murphy v. Reynolds, 55 So.3d 716, 717 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011).
Where there once was the town-crier, today there is the internet. Those unhappy with a person or business now have, as they should, the means to express their dissatisfaction to all who choose to view their complaints on the web. Many people are under the mistaken impression that they can blog anonymously without repercussions. This view is incorrect, particularly once a lawsuit is filed and civil discovery commences. At that point, internet host sites are required by law to supply identifying subscriber data via the discovery process.