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Posted: 8/8/2001 6:18:25 PM EDT
Swearing at police is criticism, not crime Appeals court overturns 2 convictions Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, August 8, 2001 ©2001 San Francisco Chronicle URL: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2001/08/08/MN191833.DTL Swearing at a police officer may be disrespectful, but it's not criminal. So said a federal appeals court yesterday in a pair of rulings overturning disorderly conduct convictions arising from unrelated incidents at Yosemite National Park. In one case, the court said Nolan Poocha was exercising free speech and wasn't threatening violence or inciting a riot when he gave a profane two-word response to a park ranger during a 1999 disturbance. "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. Poocha's attorney, Oliver Vallejo, said the decision "keeps police officers in check" and protects the right to protest. In the other case, a different three-judge panel unanimously overturned Chad Taylor's conviction for using the same two-word expletive to a ranger who poked him awake in his cabin in March 2000. Without discussing freedom of speech, the court said regulations forbidding disorderly conduct in national parks applied only to conduct in public places. The cases follow a 60-year trend in rulings restricting the government's power to punish people for allegedly disruptive speech. The Supreme Court ruled in 1942 that freedom of speech did not protect so- called fighting words -- those that "tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" -- but later cases have so narrowed that category that it now barely exists. As the high court observed in 1971, when it overturned the conviction of a man who showed up in a Los Angeles courtroom in a jacket bearing a vulgar slogan about the draft: "One man's vulgarity is another's lyric." The federal disorderly conduct regulations, modeled on the Supreme Court's fighting words case, were used to prosecute Poocha, a park hotel chef, in a case that began when rangers tried to arrest a bicyclist outside the Curry Village Lodge in Yosemite. Officers said Poocha, part of a group that was shouting at them, had been told to leave and instead clenched his fists, stuck out his chest and yelled an obscenity. The crowd eventually calmed down, and Poocha left. He was later convicted in a nonjury trial and sentenced to 10 days in custody. In overturning the disorderly conduct conviction, the appeals court said police were expected to put up with criticism, and profanity, without violence. The court also said the words Poocha used were not likely to cause a riot. * * * ©2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 2
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 2:03:09 AM EDT
Great, Now it is perfectly legal to be a verbal LEO-Basher. Just what the country needs. Am I the only one who misses the good ol' days of give officer friendly any lip and POW! [smash] The man beats some respect for authoritay back in you!?!? Thank you officer friendly may I have another?[bd] rDAm
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 2:41:51 AM EDT
That's almost humorous. How many here wouldn't consider f-u fighting words? We live in a land of lawyers and soccer mom laws. The Police should be kept in check. But they should still have the rights the rest of us do, to defend themselves against verbal and physical attacks. Putting up with some of it is a given. Dealing with a law that says everyone in the country can call you a prick (or worse), is another thing all together. I think the judicial term "fighting words", is a term modeled after the meeks' point of view.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 3:03:53 AM EDT
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 3:39:56 AM EDT
When some of the cops that we read about in the news realize that they are under the laws they enforce, it would help the cause, but you just can not feel comtempt for some say when your alcoholic cop brother in law who has a documented drinking problem, and is on Paxil calls up his berranged wife (off duty) and slurs that he is on his way over to kill her, AND she calls the cops who come over and tell her in front of HIM that she should just leave the house to him (grab the kids at 3 am and go). Then turn around and let him drive off after his swearing bout at the HOUSE. OR, when your elected Union (UGH!) socialist, let's protect the dirt bag, Leaders endorse their (and your) choices for a commie president... Or, when a great deal of cops answered a poll saying they would confiscate guns from citizens if ordered ... Hey, I know most do a good job, and us John Q. Taxpayers are really good about pointing out faults, I am ashamed of a soiciety who has placed you in the parent role, but hurting your egos is not a crime. I think policing is a noble profession, I wish that some would be more noble, but then again anyone telling another to F-U should get their mouth punched in. No matter what respect the badge.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 3:49:14 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Invictus: Am I the only one who misses the good ol' days of give officer friendly any lip and POW! [smash] The man beats some respect for authoritay back in you!?!? rDAm
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I don't know if you are or not. Did you move here from Cuba, or the old Soviet Union?
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 4:35:42 AM EDT
Let me see if I've got this right. That means that if someone in the court would have disagreed with the courts decision it would have been perfectly legal for them to have shouted at the judges in open court "Fuck you"? Some how I don't think they would have applied their new ruling equally in this case had that occurred. No?
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 4:53:36 AM EDT
Gunslinger, would you be an advocate of a "contempt of cop" law?
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 5:00:32 AM EDT
I remember hearing about a case once where the defendant was a civilian who 'flipped the bird' to an LEO. He was charged with making an obscene gesture, etc. After the trial the Judge ruled that merely flipping the finger at a cop was NOT a crime and that the defendant was not guilty. On leaving the Courtroom, the LEO flipped the Judge the finger and wound up being held in contempt of Court! Pretty ballsy LEO, I'd say! Eric The(ButInACourtroom???)Hun[>]:)]
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 5:10:53 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/9/2001 7:57:36 AM EDT by HANGFIRE]
Originally Posted By Stealth: How many here wouldn't consider f-u fighting words? to defend themselves against verbal attacks. Dealing with a law that says everyone in the country can call you a prick (or worse), is another thing all together.
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When people say fuck you I laugh and call them a homo. You defend yourself against verbal attacks with adjectives, nouns etc.. Words should never escalate to physical contact, if it does you are out of control. A year ago and many many times before I called the Port Richey city council some very very bad things. They were going to ban me from the meetings because I used perjoritive terms and was disrespectful. I laughed at them and told them that they had a snowballs chance in hell. The former Mayor called in the Sheriffs office and States Attorney to do the deed and was told that I was not breaking any laws. I always carry my Con Law text to public forums for the purpose of keeping the ANIMALS in line. That mother fucker still hates me and lost the election because of the way he treated me and other citizens that stood up to his CORRUPTION!
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 5:26:06 AM EDT
[b]In the other case, a different three-judge panel unanimously overturned Chad Taylor's conviction for using the same two-word expletive to a ranger who poked him awake in his cabin in March 2000.[/b] So let me get this straight. There are some members on this board who feel a man is deserving of arrest and time in jail for saying "fuck you" to someone who has entered his cabin, read bedroom, without permission and then poking him awake. Very interesting.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 6:02:14 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/9/2001 6:00:46 AM EDT by HANGFIRE]
Originally Posted By mags: Yeah,next time you make eye contact with one give him a ""illgal' hand signal"",you know which finger.See how far your 1stammendent rights get ya.
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Sal Salzillo, the husband of former Port Richey City Councilwoman Madaline"the stupid and corrupt" Salzillo, made it a practice to give me the bird and tell me to go fuck myself every time he drove by my house. One day I was outside talking to a neighbor and Sal drove by a gave me his usual salutation. My neighbor, who is English, urged me to call the police. I told him it was protected speech. He called the police and they came over and said it was protected speech. "We can cite him but the judge will throw it out'. My Engish neighbor asked the officer what would happen if he gave a Police Officer the "bird" and told him to "Fuck Off?" The officer replied that as long as an Officer is not threatened with physical violence there is no law violation. "Citizens are under no obligation to RESPECT governmental entities or persons"
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 6:21:49 AM EDT
So, those of you supporting the "fighting words" concept believe that I am justified in punching anyone who swears at me? I think you should try that, and see how far it goes during your assault trial. On a related note, if I was minding my own business and a cop who was having a bad day came up and swore at me, would I be justified in punching him? I didn't think so. As far as always respecting the badge, that's not usually a problem until they give you an excuse not to. Cops are people. Some of them are as contemptable as moron gas station attendants, etc. It might result in getting the ticket that you were hoping to get out of, but sometimes it's worth it.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 7:29:03 AM EDT
Swearing at you is swearing at you. Fighting words are words that either indicate an imminent threat to do bdily harm(less used definition) or more commonly are words and phrases that are so offensive an average reasonable person would be so upset at hearing the words or phrases that they would be incited to behavior that they would not normally engage in. Such as a father and his juvenile duaghters being followed by someone make a series of sexually offensive remarks directed at the juveniles. A person making repeated offensive sexual comments about someones spouse. A person repeatadly yelling the "N word" at a group of African-Americans. A person yelling derogatory remarks at the funeral of a war hero. I think the point is there is freedom of speech but there is still inciting a riot or yelling fire in a crowded movie theater that is not protected forms of expression.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 7:41:35 AM EDT
Originally Posted By a3kid: Gunslinger, would you be an advocate of a "contempt of cop" law?
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Not at all. Not a specific law dealing with simply that. However, there are circumstances in which the words or actions, even if nonthreatening physically, by a person to a police officer that can escalate a nonviolent situation into a violent one. Each should be delt with on a case by case basis. Besides any officer that can not find an applicable statute to the situation at hand needs to review the book some more. (That will ruffle some feathers.) I just found it interesting that the judge would allow something be done to an officer that he would not be allowed be said to him.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 7:44:42 AM EDT
If the previous post is accurate, there are essentially no such things as "fighting words" anymore. I would be interested to find out to what extent this is true. I doubt that a judge would be very sympathetic to anyone punching someone in the face because the punchee called someone a name, regardless of what a whore your daughter is.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 7:46:06 AM EDT
hangfire-get a picture of the guy birding you and send it to the paper
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 7:48:46 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 8/9/2001 7:45:09 AM EDT by garandman]
I have no problem with people speaking contemptuously towards cops. AS long as the cop is allowed to legally rap them in the forehead with his nightstick. Of course, the reverse also holds true - people should be allowed to rap a cop in the forehead when he is needlessly contemptuous toward them. Listen, people - Police officers are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE some para-military occupation force. They are supposed to be mere citizens, who carry the weight of the law with them. They SHOULD Be subject to the same rules of common decency that they rest of us are - because they ARE us. Or at least they are supposed to be "us."
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 7:52:49 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Gunslinger:
Originally Posted By a3kid: Gunslinger, would you be an advocate of a "contempt of cop" law?
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Besides any officer that can not find an applicable statute to the situation at hand needs to review the book some more.
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Excellent response, IMO. I can't put my finger on it right away, but I think there may be some good reasons why people should be expected to treat judges in the court- room with more respect than they give each other on the street, whether it be citizen/citizen or LEOcitizen/citizen.
Link Posted: 8/9/2001 8:03:46 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Cleatus: hangfire-get a picture of the guy birding you and send it to the paper
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I don't understand?
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