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Police Interaction

Glenn:

Just for the record, by the way, it’s perfectly legal to call police names, give their patrol cars the finger as they pass, etc. It may be rude or, as the story suggests, “stupid,” but police officers have no more authority to assault you for calling them names than anyone else, and they are acting criminally when they do so.

19 Responses to “Police Interaction”

  1. Lance R. Peak Says:

    “Just for the record, by the way, it’s perfectly legal to call police names, give their patrol cars the finger as they pass, etc.”

    This advice is completely incorrect. The statutes are dependent on your locale, and in Texas for one, calling police names or giving their patrol cars the finger can (and will if heard or seen) be charged as disorderly conduct (either a class C or B misdemeanor) which is an arrestable offense.

    Making a blanket statement like the one above is really ignorant.

  2. SayUncle Says:

    Hmm. I may err on the law professor’s opinion.

  3. wizardpc Says:

    Here is the Texas statute.

  4. Jake Says:

    The law professor is wrong in this case. It depends on the statutes in your state.

    Va. Code Sec. 18.2-416 Punishment for using abusive language to another.

    If any person shall, in the presence or hearing of another, curse or abuse such other person, or use any violent abusive language to such person concerning himself or any of his relations, or otherwise use such language, under circumstances reasonably calculated to provoke a breach of the peace, he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

    It doesn’t apply only to police, but it does apply to them – and they’re the ones most likely to a) know about that statute, and b) actually charge someone under it.

    A law professor should know better than to make a blanket statement like that.

  5. bob r Says:

    “… under circumstances reasonably calculated to provoke a breach of the peace, …”

    I’m pretty sure that many (most??) people who give a cop “the finger” are not actually trying to “provoke a breach of the peace” — just expressing their opinion of the target with the expectation that, as a “public servant”, the offended party will maintain the peace by *not* breaching it.

  6. John Smith. Says:

    Some people here need to actually read the article and then come back and defend the police…. You guys read the opinion not what actually happened…

  7. John Smith. Says:

    I was under the impression this was settled in federal court a few years ago…

  8. Jake Says:

    I’m pretty sure that many (most??) people who give a cop “the finger” are not actually trying to “provoke a breach of the peace”

    It doesn’t say anything about who is doing the calculating. But, as an alternative;

    § 18.2-415. Disorderly conduct in public places.

    A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:

    A. In any street, highway, public building, or while in or on a public conveyance, or public place engages in conduct having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such conduct is directed;

  9. Lance R. Peak Says:

    I understand your reluctance to take my word over a law professor’s Unc, but the only accurate part in that quote is “but police officers have no more authority to assault you for calling them names than anyone else, and they are acting criminally when they do so.” He’s correct there, but they sure can arrest you for what he affirms is legal.

    I worked at a busy police agency in Texas for eight years, and there were arrests all the time on people who decided to “call police names, give their patrol cars the finger as they pass, etc.”

    There was no defense to prosecution either. Sure, usually it’s just a Class C misdemeanor, but that still stays on the record and costs a person jail time and potential fines.

    The point is, this quote “Just for the record, by the way, it’s perfectly legal to call police names, give their patrol cars the finger as they pass, etc.” is incorrect and it is in fact illegal to do just that in most states.

  10. homeuser Says:

    Va. Code Sec. 18.2-416 Punishment for using abusive language to another.

    If any person shall, in the presence or hearing of another, curse or abuse such other person, or use any violent abusive language to such person concerning himself or any of his relations, or otherwise use such language, under circumstances reasonably calculated to provoke a breach of the peace, he shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.

    Cops do exactly this all the time.

  11. Lance R. Peak Says:

    Aaaand I misread your response. I read it as you were going to err on the side of the law prof.

    Oops.

  12. SayUncle Says:

    Well, it’s not like “I read it on the internet” is a valid defense.

  13. Lance R. Peak Says:

    So true.

  14. Jeff Says:

    “I read on teh internetz” is totally a valid defense. Spelling is everything.

    Are you sure this isn’t the plot of the new Adam Sandler movie?

    There are three things going on here, and the author is trying to combine them together into a conglomerate of stupidity.

    1)This guy and the Detective have some sort of personal beef with each other. They can’t get over it and act like adults. In either version of the story, both parties come off as immature. They need to hug it out, duel, or just harden the f#ck up, but why are adults interacting with each other like 5 year old on the playground?

    2)Who the f#ck goes up to the police and antagonizes them? This guy didn’t, but the impression I got from the article is that it encourages it because it’s perfectly legal. If you go up to someone and curse at them, flip them off, etc…why are you surprised that something bad happens to you? Abuse of Power or not, you put yourself in that situation. Walking on the crosswalk in front of a car with a inattentinve driver will get you hit by a car. You might be vindicated in the end, but you still got hit by a car. Unless your plan is to sue the City for damages, it’s juvenile to antagonize a random person you dont know just because it is perfectly legal. That is victim behavior.

    3)Wiretapping laws are different in every state. Teh internet sez doesn’t always work out as a battle plan( unless you bring posters with an adorable cat on it). It seems pretty stupid that you could be charged with a Federal Crime for videotapping the police, but getting yourself arrested isn’t the best course of action to shed negative light on the law.

  15. Sebastiano Says:

    Last I read, only a couple states still had archaic wiretapping laws that actually protect police from being recorded. Unsurprisingly, IL is one of them.

    It’s generally perfectly legal, and most of the recent cases of officers beating people up and arresting them because they’re recording are going to result in big hits to the public coffers. Litigators and ambo-chasers everywhere lick their chops every time some overzealous shortdick type with a badge decides to get jiggy with his handcuffs because it rubs him the wrong way that his antics on the public dime in public places aren’t private.

  16. Bill Caffrey Says:

    First – police academy training usually stresses that a person can call you names, insult your family, the legitimacy of your parent’s marriage, even insult your dog, and that isn’t a crime. Officers must expect to be the target of “insulting words”. On the other hand, threats are a different matter and may be actionable. Of course, cops have egos and if you insult them they can (and often do) react poorly to it. Officers who “get in your face” over an insult like Gannon’s should be disciplined firmly.

    With regard to the camera, photography in a public place is legal. In order to use it commercially you need releases from persons in the photo. But not if you use it for a personal record as in this case. There is no expectation of privacy in a public venue (sans long-range eavesdropping gear) and no privacy expecation for police doing their duty.

  17. SPQR Says:

    A State Patrol tried the “disorderly conduct” charge on a person who flipped him off in Colorado. It was laughed out of court.

  18. Gnarlysheen Says:

    Someone want to explain to me how being arrested for swearing at a cop or flipping him/her off is NOT a violation of the First Amendment?

    My knowledge in legal matters is lackluster at best and I am genuinely curious.

  19. Jake Says:

    A couple of days late, but just to add:

    Va. Code § 18.2-388. Profane swearing and intoxication in public; penalty; transportation of public inebriates to detoxification center.

    If any person profanely curses or swears or is intoxicated in public, […] he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.

    So, yeah. It varies according to state, and the blanket statement that it’s “perfectly legal” is wrong.