Charged with Disturbing the Peace... for Swearing?

Wait a minute, is swearing in front of other people illegal? Maybe it is in Louisiana, where a 20-year-old was arrested for "disturbing the peace" after dropping the f-bomb in the presence of a 75-year-old woman. According to arrest records, the arresting officer says Jared Smith's use of the word "clearly disturbed her peace."

According to The Advocate, Louisiana law does say you can be charged with this "crime" for “addressing any offensive, derisive, or annoying words to any other person who is lawfully in any street, or other public place; or call him by any offensive or derisive name, or make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with the intent to deride, offend, or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business, occupation, or duty."

Ok, that's a mouthful. Or should we say a potty mouthful? (Sorry, bad pun). The key point, though, seems to be whether he directed his f-bomb to her, or whether he intended to somehow annoy her by saying it. The lawyer in me would say "intent" is the key to the entire case. For the record: I'm not a lawyer, but I've seen them on TV. 

Maybe there's more to this story, because people don't often get arrested for swearing. Although does anyone else remember the guy in Michigan who swore loudly in a boat and got ticketed? It was about 20 years ago, and quite a case.

My opinion: Swearing isn't (nor should it be) a crime, but you need to be aware of and respect your audience. Don't swear in front of my mother, for example; she doesn't like it. Don't swear in front of people you don't know, because you don't know if they care about your swearing. Be respectful of kids and don't swear in front of them. 

All that said, we've all learned the big swear words (thank you, George Carlin!). We've probably used most of them, too, if only privately. Whether or not you swear says very little about you, at least to me. But when and where you swear says a lot more. We should all learn when swearing is definitely not appropriate... and edit ourselves accordingly. 



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