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Using a “Threatening” Emoji or Emoticons Could be Considered a Crime

 Posted on March 11,2016 in White Collar Crimes

threatening emojis, Stamford criminal defense attorneyEmojis and emoticons – little symbols used to communicate on mobile devices and on the Internet – have become a language all their own. This is especially true for millennials and the up-and-coming generation, many of whom have yet to even hear the word puberty, let alone actually reach it. With this new picture-speak, there comes an entire array of challenges, some of which may extend into the justice system - so much so that some may be wondering if they really could face criminal charges just for using them.

The Language of Emoji and Emoticon

Like words, emojis and emoticons are used to communicate. But, unlike words, which are usually pretty straightforward in their meaning, the cartoonish symbols could mean almost anything. Take, for example, a seemingly harmless wink: in one conversation, it could be interpreted as flirtatious or ironic; in another, it could be intended as an actual threat. Unfortunately, because the inferred meanings are different from one person to the next--and often even from one conversation to the next with the same person--police officers, judges, and juries have no reliable way to tell the difference between the two.

Law and Government Officials Uncertain How to Proceed

Cases involving the use of emojis and emoticons have already started cropping up around the country. In New York, a grand jury was asked to decide whether an emoji of a gun pointed at one of a police officer could be considered a real threat to law enforcement. In Michigan, a judge had to interpret the meaning of a face with the tongue sticking out. More recently, a 12-year-old girl was arrested after posting “Killing [gun emoji] meet me in the library [gun emoji, knife emoji, bomb emoji]” on her Instagram account.

Although the girl’s threat was deemed “not credible” by a spokesperson for the school, no one can say for certain whether or not she intended to threaten or harm anyone at school. Moreover, no one really knows how to proceed with similar cases. In fact, attorneys are still arguing over whether or not these symbols should be considered admissible as evidence since their meaning is so open to interpretation. Yet, they are still being used as reasonable evidence to search, arrest, and charge both adults and juveniles and crimes.

Seek Experienced Legal Counsel for Your Criminal Charges

If you or your teen are facing criminal charges, experienced help is needed to keep inadmissible evidence out of court. Moreover, a qualified Stamford, Connecticut criminal defense attorney can ensure your rights are protected throughout the entire legal process. With more than 40 years of experience, the Law Offices of Daniel P. Weiner can help. To get started, schedule your free initial consultation with a skilled and aggressive defense attorney. Call 203-348-5846 today.


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