A Connecticut man who received a speeding ticket in a small upstate New York town in 2012 wasn't happy about it. He expressed his thoughts by writing an expletive-filled message on the $175 citation. The man, who was 22 at the time, also crossed out the name of the town, Liberty, and replaced it with "Tyranny" before sending it to the town clerk's office.
The employees who saw the ticket told a local judge that they were alarmed and upset by what the man had written. That judge referred the matter to a local prosecutor, who ordered the man to appear in court. When he arrived, the judge had him arrested for aggravated harassment.
The charge was dismissed the following year because it was determined that the young man's words were within his First Amendment rights. However, with the help of the New York Civil Liberties Union, he sued the town for failing to protect his freedom of speech. He said that officials "handcuffed me, arrested me for a crime and almost sent me to jail because I harmlessly expressed my frustration with a speeding ticket."
A federal judge has ruled that the lawsuit could proceed because the man's First Amendments were violated. It was not reported how much the plaintiff is seeking in damages.
This town of approximately 10,000 has a history of taking words seriously. According to the federal judge, between 2003 and 2012, police there arrested more than 60 people for "the use of vulgar words in what may be perceived as a threatening context." She said that while some people might be offended by the young man's words on the ticket, the message "did not convey an imminent threat and was made in the context of complaining about government activity."
Wrongful arrests occur all the time. That's why it's essential that anyone who is charged with a crime have experienced legal guidance in order to protect his or her rights.
Source: Fox News, "Judge rules man's arrest for writing profanity on speeding ticket was unconstitutional," Sep. 16, 2015