“Hide, the Police Are Coming!”

Another interesting story that deals with the subject I discussed in my Crime-Facilitating Speech, 57 Stan. L. Rev. 1095 (2005):

An advocate for immigrant and civil rights has started using text messages to warn residents about crime sweeps by a high-profile Arizona sheriff.

Lydia Guzman, director of the nonprofit immigrant advocacy group Respect/Respeto, is the trunk of a sophisticated texting tree designed to alert thousands of people within minutes to the details of the sweeps, which critics contend are an excuse to round up illegal immigrants.

Guzman said the messages are part of an effort to protect Latinos and others from becoming victims of racial profiling by sheriff’s deputies….

So what’s the First-Amendment-relevant difference, if there is one, between this and a lookout who alerts criminals when the police are coming? (Assume that the lookout isn’t getting a share of the loot, but is just helping his friends avoid getting locked up.) Should it matter, as one expert who’s mentioned in the article suggests, whether Ms. Guzman’s real goal is preventing lawful arrest of illegal immigrants (as opposed to preventing racial profiling, assuming such profiling is unlawful)? I think there may indeed be a difference between such revelation of facts to the public and individualized communications to a small group of criminals, and I don’t think it should turn on jury inferences about the speaker’s true purpose; my article discusses the question at length. But in any event it’s helpful to think about what the difference might be.

Thanks to M. Williams for the pointer.