Free Speech

Elonis v. United States

Court Type: U.S. Supreme Court
Status: Closed (Judgment)
Last Update: August 22, 2014

What's at Stake

Whether the government is required to prove that someone prosecuted for making threatening statements intended his words to be taken as a threat.


What the Supreme Court has called “true threats” are not protected by the First Amendment. The question in this case is whether the constitutional definition of a “true threat” includes both a subjective element (the speaker intended his words to be taken as a threat) as well as an objective element (a reasonable listener would have understood the words as a threat). In its amicus brief, the ACLU argues that proof of subjective intent is required to ensure that protected speech is not chilled by the fear of criminal prosecution.

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