Is it Really Illegal to Yell ‘FIRE’ in a Crowded Theater?
Have you ever heard that it's illegal to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater? Is there any truth to that? Let's find out once and for all...
Is It Illegal To Yell 'FIRE' In A Crowded Theater?
Usually, in conversations or debates about free speech, inevitably someone will say "Yeah, but it's also illegal to yell 'FIRE' in a crowded theater".
It sounds like one of those weird old laws from 1933 that has somehow managed to stay on the book but rarely if ever enforced.
That being said, you can certainly understand why there would be an actual law on the books like that. Yelling "FIRE" in a crowded theater would definitely lead to people scrambling and running from the danger which would definitely lead to injuries, or worse.
But, can you really be arrested for doing it?
According to the legal myth-busting series from whalenlawoffice.com, this is one of the most widely misunderstood quotes in American law.
Schenck versus United States Court Case
Apparently, this all stems from the 1917 court case "Schenck versus the United States".
Whalenlawoffice.com says the case that started the whole "It's also illegal to yell 'FIRE' in a crowded theater" actually had nothing to do with free speech or fires.
But it did have something to do with theaters.
"It was in a way, but it was really about a guy that was being charged with violations of the Espionage Act because he was a member of the socialist party and he was speaking out against the draft."
So basically, the whole phrase is usually brought up as an example of legal or reasonable reasons to limit free speech. In actuality, the "yelling 'FIRE' in a crowded theater" analogy was argued in the 1917 court case to support the exact opposite of limiting free speech.
No, it is not illegal to yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater.
However, understand that while it may not be illegal to yell it, the events which can transpire as a result of doing so almost certainly will bring serious charges and will earn you quite a few lawsuits.
Doing something this wreckless will lead to serious injuries or worse.
Also, doing something like thist is just a super stupid and mean thing to do, so don't.
Read more about all of this at whalenlawoffice.com.