Mass. town makes it easier for cops to hand out $20 fines for public profanity
Middleborough, Mass., has had a law against using "unsavory language" in public places for almost 50 years. But up until this week, it took as much as 12 hours of a police officer's time to hand out a single ticket. But that changed this week, and it should now be easier for a police officer to hand out a $20 ticket for swearing.
There's a town in Massachusetts that is trying to clean up the town's atmosphere.
No, they're not going after environmental pollutants, they're going after a different kind of pollution: word pollution. Or so they say at least. Middleborough, Mass., is considering imposing a $20 fine for the use of "unsavory language" in its public spaces. Critics say it's government overreach in direct violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Not so says Alfred P Rullo, Jr, chairman of the Middleborough Board of Selectmen. He says the community is just trying to preserve a quality of life in the community.
"This is not a new bylaw. This bylaw has been on the book since 1968. It was passed at an annual town meeting at that time," Rullo said.
What's new, though, is the enforcement provision. Previously, a police officer could spend upwards of four hours on paperwork for the violation, and then appear in court.
"We would lose the services of a police officer for 12 hours to enforce these bylaws," Rullo said. "This was not the only bylaw that we changed the enforcement provision on."
Rullo said the primary reason for the change was to make it easier to levy a fine on people who smoke marijuana in public in the wake of a Massachusetts decision to decriminalize possession of marijuana.
As for the profanity, Rullo argued that these fines wouldn't be handed out merely for a fleeting expletive.
"As the police chief explained to the body last night, it needs to be a verbal assault. It has to be in your face and invading your personal space. And this can only be enforced by a police officer who observes the act," he added.
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