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Cops: Lay off on unconstitutional disorderly conduct arrests

Jan 09, 2009 Cops: Lay off on unconstitutional disorderly conduct arrests

Bill of Rights. (From the public domain.) 

Too often, police arrest for disorderly conduct simply because they cannot think of any other crimes to charge. That is beyond unjust. 

Thanks to Jonathan Turley for posting on last month’s South Dakota Supreme Court decision that the First Amendment protects the right of people to yell expletives at cops. South Dakota v. Suhn, ___ NW2d ___ (SD, Dec. 30, 2008). In this instance, Marcus Suhn was among one hundred people on the sidewalk after bar-closing time, and he yelled the following at a passing police car: "F*cking cop, piece of sh*t. You f*cking cops suck. Cops are a bunch of f*cking a**holes." (Was he performing for a YouTube release?) Suhn.

One of the officers immediately grabbed and arrested Suhn, and charged him with disorderly conduct, apparently only for the shouting and the content of Suhn’s speech, because the statement of facts says nothing of any civilians being disturbed by Suhn. Suhn.

The court below found Suhn’s words unprotected fighting words under the First Amendment. Thankfully, the South Dakota Supreme Court found Suhn’s words to be protected speech, and reversed. Suhn.

Cops, you are no more entitled than anyone else to be free from having expletives hurled at you. That is a price of a First Amendment that means anything. Jon Katz.

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