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Swear words could land Chandler woman in jail

While standing in her house, 71-year-old Miriam Ingram yelled at her neighbors and now is charged with disorderly conduct.

charged with disorderly conduct

It was over a long-standing dispute with her neighbor over smoking.

Ingram’s neighbors recorded her yelling and then called the police.

Body cam footage shows a Chandler police officer talking with Ingram about what happened.

In the police report, the officer wrote: “When I told her that I had a recording of her yelling ‘___ you ___! ___ you!’

She said that she yelled that from her back door into her own back yard. I told her that she could not yell that at her neighbor from her backyard.”

Ingram is now charged with disorderly conduct.

According to Arizona law, “a person commits disorderly conduct if, with intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person, or with knowledge of doing so, such person.”

Miriam Ingram’s attorney Marc Victor filed a motion to dismiss the charge and says this is a first amendment issue.

“It may be offensive speech but offensive speech is protected,” said Victor. “This case presents the questions is it a crime to swear at another person and the answer is — not in a free society.”

Victor says there are times when certain words aren’t protected but that’s not in Miriam Ingram’s case.

There is a hearing later this month on the motion to dismiss the case.

According to Wikipedia:

In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), the Supreme Court held that speech is unprotected if it constitutes “fighting words”.[27] Fighting words, as defined by the Court, is speech that “tend[s] to incite an immediate breach of the peace” by provoking a fight, so long as it is a “personally abusive [word] which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, is, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction”.[28] Additionally, such speech must be “directed to the person of the hearer” and is “thus likely to be seen as a ‘direct personal insult'”.[29][30] Fighting words also mean when you start to insult another being on resulting into a physical fight.

Along with fighting words, speech might be unprotected if it either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly inflicts severe emotional distress.[31] However, such a rule (which has never been explicitly decided) would be limited to private figures. The Court held in Hustler v. Falwell (1988) that satire which could be seen as offensive to a “public figure” is fully protected.[32] Such speech is rooted in a historical protection of political satire.[33] A notable example of a case involving offensive speech was the Court’s decision in Texas v. Johnson (1989), which struck down a law criminalizing flag burning in Texas.[34]

Threats of violence that are directed at a person or group of persons that has the intent of placing the target at risk of bodily harm or death are generally unprotected.[35] However, there are several exceptions. For example, the Supreme Court has held that “threats may not be punished if a reasonable person would understand them as obvious hyperbole”, he writes.[36][37] Additionally, threats of “social ostracism” and of “politically motivated boycotts” are constitutionally protected.[38] However, sometimes even political speech can be a threat, and thus becomes unprotected.[39]