Thursday, May 24, 2012
Eugene Volokh has this post at The Volokh Conspiracy, discussing the particulars of the statute in question but in terms with wider applicability. In part:
Baker was charged with jury tampering, under a statute that provides, “A person who … in retaliation for anything lawfully done by any witness or juror in any case, harasses such witness or juror, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.” “Harassment” is in turn defined as, “with intent to intimidate, annoy, or alarm another person, … [c]ommunicat[ing] with another by telephone, telegraph, writing, or via electronic communication without legitimate purpose, and in a manner likely to cause the other person annoyance or harm.”
. . . .
I’m quite troubled by such laws that prohibit a considerable amount of conduct, much of which would be constitutionally protected, and then try to avoid this overbreadth by limiting the prohibition to conduct that lacks a “legitimate purpose.” Who can know what purposes the legal system will eventually find “legitimate”? If you want to punish threats, punish threats. If you want to punish behavior that has the purpose of assisting some crime, punish that. But don’t just leave to future prosecutors, judges, and juries the decision about what’s “legitimate” and what isn’t — and thus leave citizens uncertain about what’s allowed and what’s not.