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September 2014 Archives

Mom in South Carolina arrested for cursing in front of Kids. Could it Happen in Colorado?

Mom in South Carolina arrested for cursing in front of Kids. Could it Happen in Colorado? A story has been going viral on the internet of a mother in South Carolina who was arrested for swearing in public. She was shopping for groceries and allegedly told her husband or her children to "stop squishing the f***ing bread." Another shopper overheard her and called the police, who arrested the mother under South Carolina's disorderly conduct law, which prohibits "cry[ing] out in a noisy, scandalous, or abusive manner" in a public place or "utter[ing], while in a state of anger, in the presence of another, any bawdy, lewd, or obscene words or epithets." Whatever one thinks of the mother's language, it is much less likely that such a situation could happen in Colorado. Colorado's disorderly conduct law does not have the broad language of South Carolina's. Under Colorado's statute, a person commits disorderly conduct if he or she "makes a coarse and obviously offensive utterance, gesture, or display in a public place and the utterance, gesture, or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace. This means that cursing in public alone is not likely to provide sufficient grounds for an arrest, no matter what language is used, unless the language tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace. Colorado's statute is more in line with the United States' Supreme Court's reading of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which has upheld free speech rights to such conduct as wearing a t-shirt in a courthouse saying "F** * the Draft," and generally protects speech unless it is directed to inciting and is likely to incite imminent lawless action. Unless there is significantly more to this situation than revealed in the news reports and the police officer's incident report, it is hard to see how the arrest and charging of the mother is lawful under the United States Constitution. The South Carolina Mom is not due in Court until September 12, 2014, but we hope she obtains the services of a good local attorney and challenges this unconstitutional arrest. : New Para

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