Can Telling A Joke Online Land You In Jail in Louisiana?
Remember the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was trying to figure out what was going on and trying to make peace with the lockdowns here in Louisiana? We saw some pretty funny stuff online because a lot of folks weren't working and they had nothing but time on their hands. It was stressful and a lot of people deal with stress using humor. Unfortunately, the Sheriff's Office in Rapides Parish didn't get the memo.
In May 2020, Waylon Bailey, made a joke on Facebook comparing the pandemic to the zombie apocalypse. Apparently, local law enforcement didn't see the humor in it and sent a SWAT team to Bailey's home, which he shared with his pregnant wife. The charges? They said his post violated a Louisiana state anti-terrorism law. However, the district attorney ended up dropping the case.
What's concerning here is the clear violation of Bailey's First Amendment right to free speech. But, the courts are refusing to hold the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office accountable, citing 'qualified immunity' which is defined as, "a judicially created doctrine that shields government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations—like the right to be free from excessive police force—for money damages under federal law so long as the officials did not violate “clearly established” law."
Bailey continues to work with the Institute for Justice to appeal his case and ensure this doesn't happen to anyone else. Can you imagine officers, guns drawn, storming your home over a Facebook post? Me either! Apparently, free speech isn't as free as we thought it was. Geaux get 'em Waylon!