Wow. My understanding of the First Amendment with regard to profanity was recently challenged. I’m glad to see that at least the ACLU sides with me.
Law.com’s recent article explains the happenings in Pennsylvania where apparently there has been a rash of state troopers citing or even arresting citizens for disorderly conduct, including a pizza delivery driver who had to take off an entire day without pay to defend himself against the bogus charge.
[ACLU legal fellow Marieke] Tuthill said disorderly conduct charges for use of profanity have become common in Pennsylvania despite being routinely rejected and condemned by the courts. The suits allege that use of language that is “merely profane” and “not obscene” is protected by the First Amendment, and that criminal charges of any sort for the use of mere profanity therefore violate free speech rights.
It’s not surprising to me at all to see the ACLU’s Pennsylvania chapter has their hands full with this kind of thing. This is a classic case of “badge-itis” and an example where cops are at least nominally above the law, their badge becoming a “get away with it” card. I wonder how many cited for this so-called “disorderly” conduct are police officers? Probably none. I defy you to watch more than ten episodes of the TV show “Cops” or a similar reality-based show involving police officers without hearing one word from a cop beeped out. (While it’s probably possible to find ten such episodes, it would involve quite selective viewing habits.)
I do keep my three blogs profanity-free; this blog is the only one of the three that would be anywhere near likely to contain saltier language on occasion, and I still keep it clean as a matter of personal taste. The same cannot always be said of my Twitter stream and my Facebook feed. I’ll admit it; I can have quite the penchant for profanity. If this biases my perspective, so be it. But please remember, life is not a G-rated Disney movie!
I’d rather see cops writing speeding tickets for a known underposted stretch of road than writing tickets for swearing under the guise of “disorderly conduct.” And that says a lot, given I know a lot of speed limits are underposted on purpose.