August 14, 2022 | Kentucky Law
Cursing at the police in Louisville might be your first reaction to being arrested or pulled over by a police officer. However, your first reaction might not be your best choice. While cursing at the police in Kentucky is not a crime by default, you could still end up facing criminal charges.
Freedom of Speech and State Laws Prohibiting Profanity
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the freedom of speech. It states that Congress cannot make a law that “abridges” (limits) freedom of speech. However, there are exceptions.
Some laws prohibit the use of “fighting words.” Fight words are meant to incite violence. The United States Supreme Court defined fighting words in its 1942 Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire decision. Since that time, the court added to the definition through other decisions.
Some states have anti-profanity laws that make it a crime to curse at anyone. However, those laws might seldom be used, except when the person being cursed at is a police officer. The reason being the police officer has the authority to arrest the person for breaking the law.
Other states use statutes related to disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct to enforce limits on using curse words in public. However, courts in those states had thrown out cases when the curse words did not rise to the level of “fighting words.”
The bottom line is that some local and state laws prohibit cursing at police officers. However, appealing the conviction often results in a finding that the words might have been offensive and rude, but they were protected by freedom of speech.
Kentucky Laws That Could Be Used to Arrest Someone for Cursing at Police Officers
No state law in Kentucky makes it a crime to curse at a police officer. However, just because you can do something does not mean it is a good idea.
Police officers could arrest you under one of two Kentucky statutes. The first is K.R.S. §525.070.
The state’s harassment law states in part that a person is guilty of harassment when they make offensively coarse utterances, gestures, or displays or address abusive language to any person present. The statute also states harassment is a course of conduct that “seriously annoys” another person and serves no legitimate purpose.
A police officer might argue that an individual cursing at the officer violated the disorderly conduct or harassment statutes. Whether the charge will result in a conviction depends on the facts of the case. It also depends on how the judge or jury interprets the law.
While you might win your case on appeal, you have the expense of hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Even though the First Amendment protects your speech, you might serve time in jail. Appeals to a higher court take time, so you might not be vindicated for quite a while.
What Should You Do if You Are Arrested for Cursing at the Police in Louisville?
First, try to avoid the criminal charge by fighting the urge to call police vulgar names, curse at them, or direct any language toward them that could be interpreted as offensive or a threat. If you are being arrested for drug crimes, weapons charges, sex crimes, DUI, or other criminal offenses, you do not want to make the matter worse by cursing the police officers.
However, we are human and say things in the heat of the moment. Stop talking if the police arrest you for harassment, disorderly conduct, or other criminal offenses because you cursed at them or said something you should not have said. Continuing to talk to the police is unwise, even if you change your attitude to become polite and respectful.
Instead, politely tell the police that you are invoking your right to remain silent if they want to question you. Also, tell the officers you want to speak with a criminal defense attorney.
A criminal lawyer analyzes the facts of your case and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. There might be no evidence that supports the criminal charges. If so, your attorney will likely file a motion to dismiss.
If your actions violated the law, your attorney begins preparing a defense. There could be other defenses to the criminal charges. For example, if the police officer lacked probable cause or conducted an illegal search, the evidence against you could be inadmissible.
There might have been mitigating circumstances for your actions that could result in the prosecutor reducing the charges and/or the sentence. A criminal defense lawyer uses the facts and evidence in your case to negotiate reasonable terms for a plea bargain if going to trial would not be in your best interest.
Cursing at a police officer in Louisville might result in criminal charges, but that does not mean you are guilty. Do not plead guilty without talking to a lawyer.
Contact the Louisville Criminal Defense Attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC For Help Today
Suhre & Associates, LLC – Louisville
214 Clay Street, Suite A
Louisville, KY 40202