Freedom of Speech is a First Amendment Right, but threatening verbal abuse is not protected by the Constitution. Where does the law draw the line? The issue of whether cursing at the police is legal or not is complex, and many citizens are wrongfully jailed and subject to police brutality for so-called “contempt of cop” cases. This blog will address:
- What is and is not protected speech
- Recent landmark cases and the results for citizens wrongfully arrested
- Your legal options to protect your rights if you’ve been arrested for perfectly legal behavior
$100,000 awarded to a Georgia woman after she was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for simply uttering profanities at police.
A New York court ruling that a Vietnam Veteran wrongfully arrested for “giving the finger” had the right to sue for damages.
A $5 million dollar lawsuit over an incident at a pool party where an officer pinned down a teenage girl for “mouthing off”.
Being rude to police is ill-advised behavior, but, as these recent cases demonstrate, is perfectly legal. It gives officers no right to detain, arrest, or jail you. Despite this fact, citizens continue to be arrested and subjected to brute force for lawful behavior.
What is and is not protected speech? And, more importantly, what are your options when an officer isn’t capable of handling your disrespect for their authority? Mova Law Group, Injury Attorneys wants you to know you have rights.
When Cursing at Police is Not Free Speech
Profanity directed towards an officer is protected speech; however, when a citizen’s behavior crosses the line toward violence or anything perceived to be a threat to the public, the speech is no longer protected. As ruled in the case Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, “fighting words”, or words that intend to immediately breach the peace, are not protected under the First Amendment. This could be uttering a threat or saying words that are known to cause serious commotion. Where the line is drawn is grey at best.
While the officer might not arrest or detain you for this type of conduct, they still might charge you with resisting arrest or disorderly conduct.
Cursing is Not a Crime | Know Your Rights in San Diego
Shouting obscenities, cursing at the police, or certain obscene gestures in themselves are not a “potential or immediate public problem”. They give the officer no probable cause to search, arrest, or jail you, resulting in needing a bail bonds. Any policy that runs contrary to this is plainly unconstitutional. One reporter was subdued and brutally arrested solely for cursing at police in Fairfax County, Va., during a parade under County Code, but even though the reporter said “F___ this!”, the officers had no right to arrest him (due to the code being unconstitutional).
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How Much Money Can You Sue for Loss of Wages and Defamation?
If you’ve been wrongfully arrested, you may be entitled to damages, but exactly how much is difficult to determine. For example, you may bring a defamation suit against the county for tarnishing your reputation with false statements about your behavior. Out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of their statements as well as loss of wages and effect on reputation will be calculated into your settlement. If you’ve lost wages, the capacity to earn, or the ability to earn in the future as a result of police behavior, you may also be entitled to a loss of wages settlement.
The line between protected and unprotected speech is thin at best. Knowing if you were wrongfully arrested and what you are entitled to is complex and best left to a defense attorney. Mova Law Group understands free speech law and will fight to protect your rights and win what you are legally entitled to. For more information, contact us for a FREE CONSULTATION immediately.