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Michigan Town Issues $200 Fine for Swearing

shutterstock_57708913What the flaming heck is going on in Brighton, Michigan? If you curse near one of their city-owned playgrounds, the cops will give you a ticket and a steep fine. That just burns my biscuits.

Colin Andersen, age 19, swore at a police officer for giving his buddy a skateboarding ticket. (I guess skateboarding is a crime after all.) For some reason Andersen was surprised that the officer didn’t approve and was shocked to receive a ticket and a $200 fine for disorderly conduct.

“What got me to start arguing a little bit, they were asking all of us to leave because he got a ticket,” Andersen said. “That’s not fair. We’re just standing around.”

Brighton Police Chief Tom Wightman said it’s OK for teenagers to hang out downtown, and the city doesn’t have a law prohibiting certain words.

“That’s fine if they want to behave and use the facility like anybody else,” Wightman said. “It’s when they misbehave (that) it becomes an issue. We’re going to be watching.”

…Andersen said he doesn’t think it was right to issue him a ticket without a warning. If he had been warned, he would have listened to the officer.

“I would have respected his authority,” he said.

Sounds like a lot of horsepuckey to me, Colin.

Even before I had kids, public swearing around children annoyed the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of me. My Navy days taught me words that would make a carny’s eyes water, but kids don’t need to hear that razzle-frazzit at a playground.

In a country where free speech reigns, should public swearing be illegal? Police are allowed to enforce community standards, but is it overkill to fine a potty-mouth a couple of C-notes for four-letter words?

Every unpleasant activity doesn’t require a frickin’ police response. If I’m at a playground and a teen is cussing, I’ll tell the cotton-headed ninny muggins to knock it off. That works nearly every time; when one parent speaks up, the rest usually pile on.

On the other hand, there are laws against other inappropriate behavior in public spaces (nudity, excessive violence, drunkenness, etc.). Perhaps a law against public swearing is consistent with those proscriptions.

What do you think, Ricochet — are anti-swearing laws great, merely acceptable, or totally wrong-headed and unconstitutional?

  1. Frank Soto
    C

    What a fuster cluck.

  2. Fricosis Guy

    You are fined two credits for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statue.

    WARNING: Definitely NOT Ricochet CoC Compliant.

  3. Tuck

    Swearing at policemen is generally not a good policy, and back in my teen years, I had plenty of interactions with cops!  In my experience, they universally responded very politely if you were polite and treated them respectfully even (especially!) when you were in the wrong.

    That said, I think the disorderly conduct ticket is bogus.  Just a nice official way of hassling the kid back…

    “”Criticism of the police, profane or otherwise, is not a crime,” said Judge Stephen Reinhardt in the 2-to-1 ruling throwing out Poocha’s disorderly conduct conviction.”

    Swearing at police is criticism, not crime / Appeals court overturns 2 convictions

  4. Tuck

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: On the other hand, there are laws against other inappropriate behavior in public spaces (nudity…

     LOL.  Many years back they found the laws prohibiting women from going topless in NYC to be discriminatory.

    Shockingly most women do not exercise this freedom, although girls looking for publicity find it a reliable route…  And civil society appears to have survived. :)

  5. Misthiocracy

    Fricosis Guy:

    You are fined two credits for a violation of the Verbal Morality Statue.

    : Definitely NOT Ricochet CoC Compliant.

     Dang, you beat me to it.

  6. Misthiocracy

    Tuck:

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: On the other hand, there are laws against other inappropriate behavior in public spaces (nudity…

    LOL. Many years back they found the laws prohibiting women from going topless in NYC to be discriminatory.

    Shockingly most women do not exercise this freedom, although girls looking for publicity find it a reliable route… And civil society appears to have survived. :)

    It’s also perfectly legal in Canada, thanks to a 1991 Supreme Court decision. In the 23 years since that court case, I’ve never actually seen it practiced “in the wild”.

  7. tabula rasa

    I’m not a big fan of profanity/blasphemy/obscenity (in fact, I really dislike it), but criminalizing it is (1) really dumb (don’t the cops have something better to do) and (2) not going to work. This is a cultural issue that will be solved, if at all, by cultural change.

  8. Whiskey Sam

    [Redacted]

  9. Casey

    I don’t like the idea of fining someone for swearing. Much better, I think, to ban it.  That would stop people from swearing forever.

  10. GLDIII

    My mom just use to use soap. At least we learned to keep the blue language out of her earshot.

  11. lesserson

    Yeah, not smart to swear at a cop, but it’s not something that should be legislated. I can, however, see why some want to do it. When basic internal governance (like being polite and civil in public) is no longer the norm there is a desire to have an external governance for it, whether or not it is really going to fix the problem. Like tabula rasa said, it’s a culture thing.

  12. Pony Convertible

    I used to work on oil rigs where swearing is frequent (to say the least).  So I am guilty, but now limit my swearing to times when my hammer mistakes my thumb for a nail.  I now call out people when they swear, by asking them if they throw trash out their car window when the drive down the road.  Most respond something like, “Of course not!”.  Then will I ask them why they don’t. The answer is usually along the lines that it makes the world an uglier place.  Then I close by asking them why they throw trash out their mouth.

  13. Misthiocracy

    As for my attitude towards naughty words: As long as it’s not blasphemous, I’m cool with it. I don’t believe in “bad words”, unless it’s a 3rd Commandment violation.

    After all, many of the scatalogical words were originally the correct English words. They were replaced in polite society by the Latin version.

    THIS IS AMERICA! WE SPEAK ENGLISH HERE, NOT LATIN!!!

    I highly recommend this book. It has all sorts of interesting tidbits about the topic of “taboo words”: 

    http://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Obscenity-Euphemism-Wordsworth-Reference/dp/1853263710

    Also, note that none of the Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television are blasphemous, showing where the FCC’s priorities are. Go ahead and insult God, just don’t make FCC bureaucrats think about your bodily fluids:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dCIKqkIg1w

  14. Seawriter

    I am reminded of an incident from my youth in Ann Arbor, Michigan during the 1960s-70s.  The city had a $5 fine for possession of marijuana.  

    Visitors from out of town asked me if it was true they would only get a ticket for smoking weed. I told them, yes, but also warned if you wanted to do pot in public, be cool about it.

    Did they listen?  Noooo.

    They thought “cool” would be going home and showing their buds the ticket they paid for smoking pot.  So they went up to an officer of the law, doobies in hand, and asked directions to something.  Then blew smoke in the officer’s face.

    Big mistake. Next thing, I get a call from one of them asking me to call their parents, and get a lawyer.  They were in the county lock-up ( in Ann Arbor).  They chose a Washtenaw County Sheriff for their stunt.  Who was not amused.  Who promptly arrested both on state possession charges. A potential felony. Oops.

    They eventually got off. The officer dropped the charges after a suitably grovelling apology.

    I was glad I wasn’t with them for this act of genius.

    Seawriter

  15. Fredösphere

    I see no problem with the law in principle but the potential abuse is obvious. It’s the kind of thing best left to citizen complaints.

    And I’d like to second what Misthiocracy wrote about the Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television.

  16. Richard Finlay

    Prohibiting public language would probably increase its appeal, making the problem worse.  When toplessness was prohibited, it was transgressive and exciting to violate it.  Now, it’s just another thing some wierd people do to try to attract attention.  And you don’t see it much.

  17. Frozen Chosen

    It’s about #@&* time they fined people for cussin!

  18. Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    C

    In our increasingly legalistic society, people want to ban everything they don’t like. A free society needs to police itself whenever possible.

  19. Misthiocracy

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    In our increasingly legalistic society, people want to ban everything they don’t like. A free society needs to police itself whenever possible.

    I remember one time as a tween vacationing with the family in upstate New York some where, I said some word (I don’t know which one) and some lady says to me, “you’re older! You should know better!”

    At first I was simply surprised. A strange lady trying to tell me what to do? That’s weird. Who does she think she is?!

    But then I sez to myself, “self, this is the USA. They do things differently here. Be cool, man. Just be cool.”

    Today, I think a kid in my place would have told her to do something involving sex and travel.

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