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New bill would allow law enforcement to take action upon social media threats

'The statute actually addresses a current and present need,' said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder
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Posted at 10:09 PM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-02 23:46:24-04

STUART, Fla. — Changing times could bring change to Florida law.

Bills currently in the Florida House and Senate look to expand penalties for written threats to include social media posts.

"What the statute does is it makes it possible for us to charge for a threat or somebody posting a threat on Snapchat or some kind of social media app," said Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.

Sheriff Snyder is among the bills' supporters.

His son, Representative John Snyder, is sponsoring the measure.

"It addresses a current problem that have in law enforcement such as the case that we saw at Stoneman Douglas where Cruz was actually making threats on social media, saying today is a good day to shoot up a school," said Sheriff Synder.

Currently, the law only applies to direct messages, but if passed, that would change.

Some residents worry it may then be too broad and could be left to interpretation.

Others said the law needs to be updated.

"Just because they don't target an individual doesn't make it not a dangerous thing or possible threat to society," said resident David Holmberg.

"If you publish something, you should be held liable," said Darrell Brand, resident. "It doesn't matter if it's directed at someone or generic."

Sheriff Snyder said up to this point, the sheriff's office has received a plethora of social media threats they have been unable to act on.

"The statute actually addresses a current and present need," said Sheriff Snyder. "We're constantly getting these third-party social media threats and then there's not a thing detectives can do."

In both the House and Senate versions of the bill, the offender would be charged with a second-degree felony.