Massachusetts Issues Tickets To Swearing Teens
The town of Middleborough, Massachusetts have passed a proposal to force people to pay fines for public swearing.
The proposal which was specifically targeted to swearing teens will require the offender to pay $20 for each violation. Officials have explained that this was not a means of censoring or eavesdropping on private conversations, but rather to stop teens from loudly swearing in public places.
“I’m really happy about it,” Mimi Duphily, a store owner said. “I’m sure there’s going to be some fallout, but I think what we did was necessary.”
Matthew Segal from American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts is concerned about the possible implications against the first amendment, stating that the government cannot stunt free speech in spite of profanity.
Middleborough has already had an existing bylaw against public swearing since 1968. However, due to deeper criminal implications, it has rarely been enforced. The new proposal would decriminalize profanity and instead reduce it to an easily enforceable violation.
“Police officers who never enforced the bylaw might be tempted to issue these fines, and people might end up getting fined for constitutionally protected speech,” Segal said.
The definition of “obscenities” also becomes subjective, especially with words and phrases now commonly used in mass media. “In view of words commonly used in movies and cable TV, it’s kind of hard to define exactly what is obscene,” explained another store owner Robert Saquet.