Free Speech Legislation

HB 74 – Menacing Offenses Expansion Bill (2013-2014)

Link to Bill:

HB 74 expands existing law against telecommunications harassment and menacing by stalking to include a broader range of behaviors, technology, and people. Some of the key provisions of the bill include:

  • Expanding the definition of menacing by stalking to include causing “emotional distress”
  • Adding language to prohibit telecommunications with the purpose to intimidate, annoy, and alarm
  • Prohibiting knowingly making false statements about the “death, injury, illness, disfigurement, reputation, indecent conduct, or criminal conduct” to abuse, threaten, intimidate or harass
  • Forbidding the creation or maintenance of a web site that contains statements “created for the purpose of abusing, threatening, or harassing another person.”
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Secondary Sponsors:
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Criminal Justice (S), Judiciary (H)
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Our take on this bill:

The right to free speech guaranteed in the First Amendment protects a wide spectrum of expression from government censorship, including that which is unpopular and controversial. The ACLU of Ohio is committed to preserving free speech and has concerns that HB 74 criminalizes some protected speech. HB 74’s language is very broad, using vague, legally undefined terminology like “annoy” and “harass” to define criminal behavior. Similarly, its provision against “false statements” is problematic because of the protected speech its language prohibits.

Bill Status:

Passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on 11/21/13

Passed the House on 12/4/13

Passed out of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee 12/2/4