House Bill 288 — Picketing, information disclosure

House Bill 288 — Picketing, information disclosure

by
Parrish Miller
March 6, 2021
Parrish Miller
March 6, 2021

Bill Description: House Bill 288 criminalizes free speech by imposing penalties on sharing information that might be used in organizing political protests near residential property. 

Rating: -4

Analyst Note: House Bill 288 is related to and exacerbates the negatives of House Bill 195.

Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?

House Bill 288 creates Section 18-6411, Idaho Code, making it a crime "to publish, post, disseminate, or disclose an individual's residential address, or other information identifying the specific location of an individual's residence or dwelling place, with the intent to harass, intimidate, or cause another individual to engage in targeted residential picketing."

Those last three words — “targeted residential picketing” — are defined as "intentionally engaging in picketing or other demonstration on the street or sidewalk in front of a person's residence or dwelling place, or on the street or sidewalk in front of the adjacent residence or dwelling place, with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person."

This language violates the U.S. Constitution by abridging the freedom of speech, and it supports the efforts of House Bill 195 to infringe upon the right of the people to assemble peacefully and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The language of the prohibition is inherently speculative in that it criminalizes a specific action — "to publish, post, disseminate, or disclose an individual's residential address, or other information identifying the specific location of an individual's residence or dwelling place" — based solely on a perceived intent "to harass, intimidate, or cause another individual to engage in targeted residential picketing."

The idea of law enforcement or prosecutors sleuthing through informational social media posts attempting to deduce the author's intent should concern anyone concerned with the defense and preservation of civil liberties.

(-1)

In addressing freedom of speech, the Idaho State Constitution says, "Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty." While advocates of House Bill 288 may claim that the bill is consistent with making people "responsible for the abuse of" their liberty, we must again note that inspiring political demonstrations (which are also protected by the Idaho State Constitution) should never be deemed illegal.

(-1)

Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability?

House Bill 288 attempts to use the threat of criminal penalties to dissuade individuals from publishing, posting, disseminating, or disclosing "an individual's residential address, or other information identifying the specific location of an individual's residence or dwelling place."

While the bill does not specifically mention elected officials, they are the most typical recipients of "targeted residential picketing," and thus it is fair to judge that the bill's intent is to reduce the accountability of elected officials and to prevent transparency regarding their residential addresses.

(-1)

Does it directly or indirectly create or increase penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for nonviolent crimes? Conversely, does it eliminate or decrease penalties for victimless crimes or non-restorative penalties for non-violent crimes?

House Bill 288 makes it a misdemeanor, which carries the potential for both fines and incarceration, for someone "to publish, post, disseminate, or disclose an individual's residential address, or other information identifying the specific location of an individual's residence or dwelling place, with the intent to harass, intimidate, or cause another individual to engage in targeted residential picketing."

Protesting and picketing are constitutionally protected political activities, which makes advocating or inspiring such activity protected activity as well.

Criminalizing the sharing of factual information is not just unconstitutional, it is also a significant escalation of the already problematic trend of overcriminalization.

(-1)

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