Texting a image of a gun landed cost a French man $1,135 and three months of his life in jail. A French court has has ruled against a 22 year old Frenchman for texting his ex-girlfriend a emoji that was a small graphic rendering of a handgun.
The court in Valence in the southern Drôme département ruled that the gun-shaped character at the end of a mobile phone text message constituted a “death threat in the form of an image”, and handed the accused a six-month sentence, with three suspended.
The handgun emoji was sent along with a long string of texts the man sent his ex-girlfriend after a bitter break up.
The lawyer representing the girlfriend argued that she “no longer dared come into to town and suffered from nightmares” since receiving the pistol emoji and due to his constant harassment.
The man’s defence attorney reportedly said that the court should not read too much into the pistol image, and cast doubt on the argument that this could have “such an impact” on the girl’s state of mind.
The court sided with the ex-girlfriend who at the time of the incident was considered a minor. The judge decided that under article 222-17 of the French penal code on death treats that this offense constituted a “real threat”. The article carries a maximum sentence of three years and up to $51,219 dollars (US).
There have been cases in the US of people being arrested and facing charges for sending threatening emojis. Two men in South Carolina were charged last June for sending a text message that contained only emoji of a fist, pointing, and an ambulance. This was an escalation of attempts to assault an unarmed man. Another case in Baton Rouge, LA landed a 26 year old man in hot water when he sent a picture of a gun along with the text “I’m coming”. He was arrested and charged with cyberstalking.
France is reeling from the coordinated Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people and injured 368. Sensitivity to firearms is high in a country where weapons are viewed as offensive. Guns are restricted in France as permits are only issued for hunting or sport shooting. All guns that carry more than three rounds require special permits. France also sets limits on the number of rounds of ammunition that can be stored at home to no more than 1000 per gun.
Does the mere sending of a gun image constitute a crime? Many would consider the criminal charges leveled against these people a overreach of political correctness. In these cases there were other factors, including the over zealous and stalking nature of their activities which may have actually led to violence. With courts setting precedence on punishment for sending gun images, creepy ex-boyfriends may want to think twice before hitting the send button on that 300th text message.
Related: Preparing for a Trump Presidency