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Swear Freely In Pennsylvania: It's Your #$%^&*^ Constitutional Right

by Eyder Peralta
Jan 5, 2011

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Believe it or not, state troopers in Pennsylvania issued more than 700 disorderly conduct citations over the course of one year. The violation? Swearing.

According to the AP, local police added hundreds more to that count. Each citation resulted in hundreds of dollars in fines. But, as part of  a settlement reached yesterday with the American Civil Liberties Union, Pennsylvania State Police has agreed to stop issuing tickets for cursing. The AP reports:

"Using profanity toward someone, whether an officer or not, is just not one of those things that you can put someone in jail for," ACLU lawyer Mary Catherine Roper said Tuesday. "It may not be very smart, but you have a constitutional right to do that."

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court years ago deemed such speech legal as long as it's neither threatening nor obscene, Roper said.

According to the ACLU of Pennsylvania's press release, this all stems from an incident in which a Luzerne County woman was ticketed for yelling "asshole" at a motorcyclist "who swerved close to her."

The ACLU says the citation noted the infraction could land Lona Scarpa in jail for 90 days, as well as a fine for $300. Scarpa challenged the citation and won.

As part of the settlement, the Pennsylvania State Police have agreed to retrain their troopers and "clarify that the term 'obscene' in the statute does not refer to profanity, indecent speech or gestures."

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