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Free Speech Limits


We all know that freedom of speech is a critical right Americans enjoy, guaranteed by the First Amendment. But are there parameters to that right? There absolutely are!

What Free Speech Entails 

Free speech is quite a broad right.  Unlike in some other countries, Americans are allowed to criticize the government, and even to say and do things that the majority of other Americans find totally despicable. Some of the freedoms we enjoy include:

  • Protesting: Whether that is through marching, wearing armbands, carrying posters, kneeling during the National Anthem, or any other plethora of ways, the right to protest is guaranteed.
  • Using what some consider offensive language or visuals: Nazis and white supremacists, LGBTQ, and librarians have the right to share their ideals as they work to convey a political message.
  • Donating money: With some limitations, people can donate to the candidate/party of their choice.
  • Engaging in offensive activities: Yes, it’s legal to burn the American flag, or participate in other activities that some find abhorrent.
  • Refraining from speaking: No one is required to say the Pledge of Allegiance or to stand for the flag.
  • The right to advertise: With certain restrictions, advertising goods and services is permitted in this country.

What’s Not Allowed? 

While the list of American rights is comprehensive, there are important restrictions worth noting.  Speech that goes to far includes speech that:

  • Incites activity of a criminal nature;
  • Involves the manufacture or dissemination of obscenities;
  • Includes the burning of draft cards;
  • Threatens violence against another;
  • Includes “fighting words” that would reasonably provoke violence in a face-to-face interaction;
  • Relates to the publication of a school newspaper against the wishes of school administration;
  • Encourages the use of illegal substances at school-sponsored activities.

Worth Understanding

 Some of the language used to describe the right of free speech and any restrictions is tough to define.  A closer examination tells us:

  • Threats are not allowed, even if they are not followed through on;
  • Although it is permissible to promote lawlessness, it becomes a problem if the incitement is likely to result in immediate violence or illegal activity.
  • Materials must meet three criteria in order to meet the definition of obscenity:
    • Community standards determine sexual behavior is depicted in an offensive manner;
    • Community standards deem the material has no artistic, scientific, literary, or political value;
    • When viewed in its entirety, materials appeal simply to one’s “prurient interest.”

Are You Facing Free Speech Issues?

 If you believe your free speech rights are being violated and you are facing criminal penalties because of it, the experienced Kissimmee criminal defense attorneys at Salazar & Kelly Law Group can help.  Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.

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