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Pa. woman in hot water for profanity-laced tirade at toilet

By The Associated Press
10.17.07

SCRANTON, Pa. — Talk about a potty mouth.

A Scranton woman who shouted profanities at her overflowing toilet within earshot of a neighbor was cited for disorderly conduct.

Dawn Herb could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.

"It doesn't make any sense. I was in my house. It's not like I was outside or drunk," Herb told The Times-Tribune of Scranton. "The toilet was overflowing and leaking down into the kitchen and I was yelling (for my daughter) to get the mop."

Herb doesn't recall exactly what she said, but she admitted letting more than a few choice words fly near an open bathroom window on the night of Oct. 11.

Her next-door neighbor, a city police officer who was off-duty at the time, asked her to keep it down, police said. When she continued, the officer called police, who charged Herb with disorderly conduct. Herb later said she would  plead not guilty.

Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Philadelphia, took issue with the citation.

"You can't prosecute somebody for swearing at a cop or a toilet," she said. "We bring one of these cases a year and sue some police departments because they do not remember that they are not the language police."


Update
Pa. judge flushes toilet-tirade complaint
Court dismisses disorderly conduct charge, finding First Amendment protects woman who cursed in frustration at malfunctioning commode. 12.17.07

Related

Cussing canoeist's conviction thrown out, along with 105-year-old law

Michigan Court of Appeals rules 1897 statute barring use of vulgar language in front of women, children is unconstitutional. 04.02.02

Cussing at cop can be a crime, rules Montana high court
Justices vote 5-2 that obscene language likely to provoke violence can bring an arrest for disorderly conduct. 12.22.03


Idaho high court: State can't make bad language illegal
Justices strike down portion of law against disturbing the peace but uphold conviction of man accused of swearing in front of 13-year-old and his mother. 03.05.04

Federal judge: Man's rants at cop were lawful
Court upholds West Virginia man's claim that police officer falsely arrested him in retaliation for cursing. 05.22.04

Indiana appeals court: Cursing at cop was protected speech
Unanimous panel overturns teen's juvenile conviction for disorderly conduct, finding that comments only annoyed police and didn't cause real harm. 05.27.05

Profanity & the First Amendment
By Scott Felsenthal Generally profanity is considered protected speech, but there are situations when its use can be punishable. 05.02.07

Federal judge: State can prohibit profanity on public highways
By David L. Hudson Jr. Man who cursed at North Carolina police officers had argued that law was overbroad. 11.20.07

Bowled over by toilet tirade ...
By Gene Policinski Really — a disorderly conduct charge for cursing at an overflowing commode in your own home? Also: journalist shield, fantasy baseball. 10.18.07

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