Even if it is outright profanity, it is still illegal to issue a ticket for a dirty bumper sticker in Georgia. The Georgia Supreme court decision Cunningham v. State explicitly barrs this on First Ammendment grounds. The court reasoned that the Cohen decision ("F@ck The Draft" printed on a jacket warn in a courthouse is protected speech) would naturally extend to the bumpersticker scenario.One of two things happened here. The officer either willfully ignored the law or the officer was ignorant of the law (and by law I mean the controlling rule, not some obscure, unenforcable local code). Since the old cliche "ignorance of the law is no defense" is still applied to the citizenry, one would hope that it would also apply to a professional law enforcement officer.This person deserves to cash in because that is the only remedy available to the people against abusive or incompetent law enforcement officers. That it is the taxpayers who pay and not the actual officer is a shame.See below for Professor Volokh's take:http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_03_26-2006_04_01.shtml#1143534242
Clearly, the law is on the side of the person who received the ticket. But, to say this person should “cash in” for “emotional distress” is going too far. It’s a traffic ticket. Yes, it’s a constitutional right, but it’s a traffic ticket that was dismissed. There was no jail. There was no beating. Hell, there was no fine. It’s not worth a law suite. At most, the police officer should be reprimanded, which I’m sure they were. This is the sort of thing that arises in politically contentious time and doesn’t deserve to tie up busy courts. This type of law suites undermines judicial credibility. I can just imagine average Joe on the street “emotional distress? 100 dollars? It was dismissed? You mean that’s emotional distress? Well I’ve got some grievances with the parking office…..”
If you were trying to find a Metro Atlanta county where Anti-Bush speech was being punished, DeKalb County (home of Cynthia McKinney) would be pretty much the last place you'd look. If you didn't give a rip about anyone's motivations, and just wanted to make some money misrepresenting somebody's dumbass mistake as something sinister, however, I guess it's as good a place as any.
The law is routinely construed strictly against citizens and leniently against the state. That same officer who issued the illegal ticket would probably not be inclined to accept "I didn't know such and such was illegal" as a reason to decline to issue a ticket or arrest a supsect. The law is huge, complex and frequently changes and grows. Citizens are expected to know the law and follow it even though they have plenty of other things to do (such as maintaining a compentency in their chosen profession). Police officers are Law Enforcement Professionals. It is their JOB to know the law and enforce it accurately. Ignorance of the law is not tolerated BY the police, so it shouldn't be tolerated OF the police either. I understand that we all make mistakes and exercise poor judgement, but this was a particularly crass instance and shouldn't be overlooked. Since prosecutors and judges sometimes like to "make an example of" a particular offender in their sentencing decisions, it seems to me that the law enforcement folks should get the same treatment occasionally when they screw up in such an obvious way.
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