Elonis v. United States Case Brief

Facts of the case

Anthony Elonis was convicted under 18 U. S. C. §875(c), which criminalizes the transmission of threats in interstate commerce, for posting threats to injure his coworkers, his wife, the police, a kindergarten class, and a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent on Facebook. The district court instructed the jury that a true threat,which falls outside the scope of First Amendment speech protections, requires an objective intent to threaten. Elonis appealed and argued that true threatsrequire a subjective intent to threaten. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed Elonis’ conviction and held that a subjective intent standard would fail to protect individuals from the fear of violence which the true threatexception was created to prevent.


Where petitioner was convicted for transmitting threats in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 875(c) based on statements that he posted on a social networking website, his conviction could not stand, because although neither petitioner nor the government identified any indication of a particular mental state requirement in the text of § 875(c), the mental state requirement applied to the fact that the communication contained a threat, it was error for the jury to be instructed that the government need prove only that a reasonable person would regard petitioner’s communications as threats, and negligence was not sufficient to support a conviction under § 875(c).

  • Advocates: John P. Elwood for the petitioner Michael R. Dreeben Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent
  • Petitioner: Anthony Elonis
  • Respondent: United States
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Citation: 575 US _ (2015)
Granted: Jun 16, 2014
Argued: Dec 1, 2014
Decided: Jun 1, 2015
Elonis v. United States Case Brief