AV Preeminent
The Florida Bar

Laws Aimed at Preventing Criminals from Profiting from Crime Story are of Little Effect

Since the 1970s almost thirty states have enacted laws designed to prevent criminals from receiving monies that may otherwise be derived from selling their stories. The problem is that in the early 90s the United States Supreme Court ruled that “Son of Sam” laws were unconstitutional as a violation of the First Amendment. The reasoning of the high court was simple; no laws may restrict speech based solely on content. Since the 90s several states have had similar laws on the books overturned by higher courts on the same constitutional grounds. In response, many states are enacting general forfeiture laws as an alternate deterrent. Under the new “Son of Sam” type forfeiture laws, the victims of said crimes would receive the profits of any stories sold by the assailant.

The most recent media attention that such a law received was in reference to OJ Simpson’s new book, “If I Did It.” Many criticize the law applied to this situation believing that Simpson received funds long before revealing his story, thus circumventing the Goldman family’s rights to all revenues.

In Florida we have seen prosecutors use the current laws on the books to seize small amounts of revenue. These lawsuits have been filed by Florida’s prosecutors in an effort to determine if such seizures would be appealed and overturned. The general consensus is that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wouldn’t want to find out that forfeiture laws were flawed on a high profile and high stakes case.

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