Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can Florida Sheriff enforce Florida law on Colorado citizens?

I didn't know who Phillip Greaves was until I saw a tweet that said, "First Amendment Alert! Author arrested for writing a book," and gave a shortened URL to a post of the same name by Marc J, Randazza on the Citizen Media Law Project blog.

Mr. Phillip Greaves is an author. He has written a very controversial book. To be honest, I'm almost afraid to tackle this event. Mr. Greaves wrote a book entitled "The Pedophiles Guide." Apparently it was exactly what it says. The book was written in Colorado, and apparently violates no laws there.

Enter Sheriff Grady Judd in Polk County, Fla. He heard about the book and had a deputy order a copy of the book from Greaves. When it arrived they checked it out and determined it was in violation of Florida Obscenity laws. They issued a warrant which was served by Colorado police.

Frankly, I don't have a problem with Mr. Greaves being arrested for writing his book. I've never believed the First Amendment protected all speech, and cases like this merely point out why.

What I do have a problem with is the way the sheriff developed his case. Colorado law hadn't been broken, so he ordered a copy of the book and determined that it broke Florida law and took the steps necessary to issue and prosecute a warrant.

So what? Most people would probably agree that the authors choice of topic marks him as scum. Why should his arrest concern us?

What if, instead of someone from another state whose laws differed from Florida's, he used similar tactics to arrest someone from another country, even though there was nothing illegal being done? Do we want local law enforcement searching for jurisdictions to issue arrest warrants from if they can't find anything illegal in local codes? Do we want local law enforcement looking around the country to find citizens doing things that are legal in their city or state, but illegal in the officers jurisdiction and looking for ways to be able to charge and arrest them for breaking the law where their activity is illegal?

I don't like topic of the book Mr. Greaves wrote. I believe he should be in jail. But there are proper ways to do things, and Sheriff Grady is not using them.