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New City Ordinance Unconstitutional?


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  • New City Ordinance Unconstitutional?

    In Lake Como, NJ, they have a new city ordinance. You can get a $300 fine for use of offensive language in public. Would this even hold up in court. I would think it is a direct violation of the 1st Amendment. Furthermore, everyone has their own opinions on what constitutes offensive language.

    This is a city that makes money fining drunk tourists and this looks just like another ordinance to raise money.

  • #2
    You need to post this in "Ask a Judge".
    "A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the existing of better men than himself."
    John Stuart Mill


    • #3
      I would be curious to see how the law or ordinance is phrased. If all it says is "offensive" language it would probably be deemed unconstitutionally vague. In public places, when it comes to foul language, we usually look toward language, gestures, and/or some other conduct that is plainly intended or likely to elicit a violent response. In neighborhoods we look at yelling/screaming/cursing from a noise ordinance standpoint as to whether or not it is disturbing the peace, quiet, or repose of the neighborhood.


      • #4
        In virginia there is a criminal offense for curse and abuse, which would be offensive language directed towards another. It hasn't been challenged thus far.
        "there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter." Ernest Hemingway


        • #5
          There was a case in Michigan (in 2000 I think) where a canoist was fined $75 for cursing in front of women and children, but a Michigan Appeals Court struck the law down saying that it violated free speach rights.
          No man is justified in doing evil on the grounds of expediency. - Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1900)


          • #6
            We generally use the charge of disorderly conduct to deal with people loudly cursing and by such, causing a disturbance.

            Disorderly Conduct KRS 525.060 prohibits "unreasonable noise" which is meant to cause public disturbance or alarm, public inconveninence or wantonly creat the risk there of. That has been upheld to mean loud cursing in public.

            Another law, Harassment, KRS 525.070 1(c) says that when a person intends to harass, annoy or alarm another person "in a public place, makes an offensive coarse utterance, gesture or display, or address abusive language to any person present."

            That subsection in the Harassment statute was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court in Musselman v Commonwealth, 705 S.W.2d 476 (1986), as too broad and vague, and as such we no longer charge under that subsection of the charge.

            Depending on the language of the ordinance, it may be unconstitutional.

            You can always be a test case and use the above citation as your defense.
            Last edited by jricks; 07-28-2005, 07:47 AM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by GoGo Gadget
              Judge called a recess, made a phone call, and the Trooper was being called to the barracks before he got out of the parking garage. He was then fired for his conduct.

              I got to admit, I laughed at this one. But he could have been a great trooper.

              Does that mean I can swear up and down at any telemarketers that call my house. Its part of their job also.


              • #8
                There are several court decisions about this subject, and the decisions have contributed to the confusion. Here are a few of the decisions.

                These expressions are considered "protected speech"

                Calling a police officer a


                • #9
                  (great post, retired... thank you)
                  All Gave Some - Some Gave All



                  • #10
                    North Carolina has a law against cursing on a public street or highway in the presence of two or more people. However, the statute also exempts Pitt and Swain Counties for some reason.....mountain rednecks .


                    • #11
                      I use the hell out of our disorderly conduct ordinance. I can't recite it word for word, but it basically says that you can not use "obscene" language in public places, or at Officers and so on. I really only hook the real a holes for it, but if anyone wants to cuss me they go. If they want to cuss clerks or other employees at stores, if they don't calm down and leave real ****** quick they go. If they want to cuss firefighters, ahhh, no big deal. Well, ok, maybe they'll go.

                      I've hooked many a people on disorderly, and will hook many more. If or when these dirtbags take it far enough in court and they start getting reversed, we'll probably lose the ordinance. But, as long as we have it, I'll use it. Its a great tool.

                      In court the judge informed the Trooper that it is part of his job to take that type of abuse and the law designed to protect the virgin ears of the innocent civilians.
                      ^Sounds like a good judge...way to be pro a-hole and anti-Police.
                      "He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still"

                      -Lao Tzu

                      "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

                      -Reinhold Niebuhr


                      • #12
                        Texas has always had this exact wording under our Disorderly Conduct law/


                        • #13
                          I have always expected that a percentage of the people I arrest will express their frustration verbally. If they want to call me names, so be it. So long as they are cooperating with the booking process and not passively or actively resisting, I couldn't care less how many names they call me. I've never arrested someone or added on a charge because they called me names. There can be no offense where none is taken - why would I care what this moron thinks about me?

                          If they are acting out in public, then we have a couple of statutes we can use, with language like: "acting in a manner to cause annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof." I have no problem hooking someone up for that.
                          Cogito ergo summopere periculosus.


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