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Florida Appeals Court Hears “Gun Emoji” Criminal Case

Allegations of criminal threats through electronic means have increased with the proliferation of social media and digital communication platforms. Interpreting electronically communicated threats can be difficult for authorities as well as potential victims. A notable case recently heard by a Florida appellate court involved a juvenile who was convicted for sending an electronic threat via a text message that included an emoji. The juvenile in question was charged with making threats after a series of direct messages on Instagram, which were deemed threatening by the prosecution, although the juvenile’s lawyers on appeal have argued that he did not have the requisite intent to be convicted of the crime.

The case involved a heated exchange between three students on Instagram. The conflict started when one student posted a video expressing admiration for the defendant, which led to a series of threatening messages. Both the defendant and their significant other participated in the conversation using the defendant’s Instagram account. The most controversial part of the exchange was when one student sent a gun emoji along with the phrase “ima run from 22” to the other student involved in the argument. This digital communication resulted in the defendant’s arrest and subsequent charge for making electronic threats under Florida law, which makes it a crime to send threats through written or electronic communication. The prosecution argued that the gun emoji, combined with the context of the messages, constituted a credible threat.

After being found guilty and sentenced to five years of probation, the defendant appealed the conviction, arguing that the trial court applied the wrong legal standard and that the prosecution failed to prove he had the requisite intent to make a threat. The defendant contended that the trial should have considered whether he had specific intent to threaten, rather than general intent. However, the appellate court ruled against him, finding that the issue of intent was not properly preserved for appeal. The court noted that during the trial, the defendant’s defense did not clearly argue the necessity of proving specific intent, and thus, the appellate court could not review this claim. The court emphasized that for an appeal to succeed, any objections or legal arguments must be explicitly raised and ruled upon during the trial, which did not occur in this case.

As a result of this procedural oversight, the appellate court upheld the conviction, reinforcing the importance of thorough and timely legal argumentation in criminal cases. This ruling underscores the critical role of a competent Florida criminal defense attorney, particularly for juveniles or those unfamiliar with the legal system. An experienced attorney can ensure that all potential defenses and objections are properly presented at trial, preserving issues for appeal if necessary. Early involvement of skilled legal counsel can make a significant difference in the outcome of a case, ensuring that the accused’s rights are adequately protected and that any legal errors can be effectively challenged on appeal.

Competent and Capable Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys

As incidents of electronic threats increase with the widespread use of digital communication, prosecutors are becoming more aggressive in pursuing these charges. If you or a loved one has been charged with making electronic threats or any other crime, our skilled attorneys with years of experience at the Mayberry Law Firm can provide the robust defense you need. We ensure that every aspect of your case is meticulously handled, leaving no room for oversight. If you are facing criminal charges, contact our office at 813-444-7435 or email to discuss your case.

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