Feiner v. New York

340 U.S. 315

 

RULE:

When there is a "clear and present danger" in the form of a riot, the state (through police officers) may restrict an individual's speech if that individual is causing or inciting the riot.

FACTS:

Plaintiff was addressing a group of 75 people on a public sidewalk. The original purpose of plaintiff's speech was to invite the people to attend a meeting, but plaintiff began making derogatory remarks and comments towards certain political officials. After the speech, an individual complained to the police, and officers came to the scene where the plaintiff was speaking. When the officers arrived, they witnessed people spilling into the street and interfering with traffic. Officers ordered plaintiff to stop speaking, but he refused, and was arrested. He was subsequently convicted of disorderly conduct for his role in inciting the riot. Plaintiff appeals from the conviction.

ISSUE:

Whether defendant's restriction of plaintiff's speech was proper, in the face of a riot?

ANSWER:

Yes, defendant's restriction of plaintiff's speech was proper in the face of a riot.

CONCLUSION:

In affirming the plaintiff's conviction, the Court held that an individual does not have a right to freedom of speech when it is likely that the individual's speech will result in a riot, or substantial danger to the community. This is one example of a situation where a state may restrict an individual's freedom of speech for the purposes of protecting the community.

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