June 15, 2022 | Ohio Law
Many people believe that cursing at the police is protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. However, some forms of speech are not protected by the constitution. For example, verbal threats of violence against a police officer are not protected speech.
Additionally, while you might want to curse at a police officer, you need to think before you speak. Cursing law enforcement officers in Ohio could result in criminal charges.
Ohio Applies Disorderly Conduct to Cursing at a Police Officer
The laws for cursing at law enforcement officials vary by state. Some states, cities, or counties may have laws or local ordinances governing the use of profanity when addressing a police officer.
Ohio courts have applied disorderly conduct statutes in cases involving profanity directed at police officers. Therefore, in addition to an arrest on sex crimes, drug charges, theft, or DUI, you could have a disorderly conduct charge added if you cuss at the arresting officer.
What Is Ohio’s Disorderly Conduct Law?
Ohio Revised Code §2917.11 broadly defines disorderly conduct in several situations. Specifically, the law states that you cannot cause another person alarm, annoyance, or inconvenience by using “grossly abusive language” or using offensive course speech.
Under this definition, cursing at a police officer could be interpreted as disorderly conduct. However, the courts have also weighed the potential crime against protecting freedom of speech.
The Ohio Supreme Court defined statements made to police officers that fall within the crime of disorderly conduct. If the cuss words or profane language are considered “fighting words,” the person can be arrested for disorderly conduct.
How Do You Define Fighting Words in Relation to Cuss Words?
All cuss words do not fall into the definition of “fighting words.” You could use curse words or profane language when talking to a police officer without using “fighting words.”
The case of State v. Thurman provides a good example. The police arrested the defendant after he left the scene of an accident.
Thurman used cuss words and a racial slur when the police officer questioned him. He also said he would not talk to the police officer. He included the threat that he would get the police officer fired.
The officer then arrested Thurman for disorderly conduct.
“Fighting words” have been defined by Ohio courts as words that would likely provoke a reasonable person to retaliate. They are also words that are likely to inflict injury.
Cussing directly at a police officer would generally be considered “fighting words,” but using curse words in a description or conversation would not. Thurman used curse words as descriptive words. Even though the police officer testified he did not like being called names, it did not rise to the level of inciting violence.
Therefore, the court ruled that Thurman’s use of curse words did not rise to the level of “fighting words.” Generally speaking, it is best not to cuss at a police officer because you could find yourself fighting disorderly conduct charges.
What Should You Do if You Are Arrested for Disorderly Conduct in Cincinnati?
Do not argue with the police officer or resist arrest because it only makes the matter worse. The time to argue is in front of a judge with a criminal defense lawyer acting on your behalf.
Most disorderly conduct charges are misdemeanor charges that do not result in jail time. Instead, you will be charged a small fine and the charge appears on your criminal record.
However, some disorderly conduct charges could result in a fourth-degree misdemeanor. A conviction could result in jail time. Offenses that might qualify as a fourth-degree misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge include:
- Ignoring a reasonable warning by a police officer to stop engaging in specific conduct
- The conduct takes place near or at a school safety zone or school
- The offense occurs in the presence of an emergency facility person performing their job
- The person has three or more disorderly conduct convictions on their record
- The offense occurs in the presence of a first responder performing their job at the scene of an accident, fire, riot, disaster, or other emergencies
An attorney assesses the case and investigates the circumstances of your arrest. If the police officers did not have probable cause for your arrest or violated your constitutional rights, the judge may dismiss the criminal charges against you.
There is never a “minor” criminal charge. All criminal charges can result in some type of penalty and a criminal record. Therefore, it is in your best interest to fight disorderly conduct charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney.
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