Restaurant Owner Not Guilty Over A Tweet Outing Undercover Operatives in Public

Credit: CC0 Public Domain.

In a very troubling case, the Nebraska State Patrol arrested a restaurant owner for Tweeting out a photo of two teens who were working on their behalf to conduct alcohol compliance checks. The teens were in a public place, utilized their real underage identification and made no effort to conceal their identity. Therefore, they had no expectation of privacy.

Is it a good idea to potentially put a couple of young people at risk who are trying to help the police enforce laws meant to stop under age drinking?  Absolutely not. However, posting this Tweet with a photo of two people in public:  “Omaha restaurant peeps: These two are trying to ruin your night w/sting operations in town” should not be a crime in the United States.

I once witnessed an undercover police sting in public purely by accident and I could have interfered but decided to steer clear. However, if I would have approached any of the suspects involved and warned them that they may be arrested if they continued their activity the police would not have been able to arrest me for exercising my First Amendment rights.

Fortunately, the jury found the restaurant owner not guilty because this would be a very slippery slope on the infringement of our First Amendment rights.  While I may not agree with what this restaurant owner did, making his actions a crime may open the floodgates to chill the First Amendment in the Social Media Age.

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