Monday, May 19, 2014

Brighton police tickets 19yr old who swears in front of him

"John Spartan, you are fined one credit for violation of the verbal morality statute"

Brighton makes the national news again over language. Keep in mind that Brighton has the law where it's illegal to be annoying. It's even in Time magazine. .  I don't consider Brighton a suburb, but that's another debate.
This was in today's Argus:

Swear in downtown Brighton near the Imagination Station playground, and there’s a good chance you’ll be getting a ticket.
Colin Andersen learned this lesson the hard way.
Upset that his friend had been ticketed for skateboarding in downtown Brighton and told to leave, Andersen said he was simply venting when he said, “This is f------ bull----.”
The 19-year-old Brighton resident was hanging out with his friends on a sunny April day in a parking lot next to the pavilion and Imagination Station; Andersen said he swore under his breath and no children heard him.
However, a Brighton Police Department officer heard him and issued him a ticket for disorderly conduct.
“What got me to start arguing a little bit, they were asking all of us to leave because he got a ticket,” Andersen said. “That’s not fair. We’re just standing around.”
Brighton Police Chief Tom Wightman said it’s OK for teenagers to hang out downtown, and the city doesn’t have a law prohibiting certain words.
“That’s fine if they want to behave and use the facility like anybody else,” Wightman said. “It’s when they misbehave (that) it becomes an issue. We’re going to be watching.”
Wightman said the playground is popular, especially with families and young children. Sometimes, police are called due to teenagers or young adults acting disorderly.
“That’s what gets on our radar, their behavior,” he said.
Wightman said teenagers hanging out downtown is an “ongoing issue.”

I'm not going to defend the actions themselves. I swear a bit, and in politics use the word bullshit all the time on this blog. It's a great word because it describes so much of what's out there that just can't be covered by other words with the same meaning. I tend to avoid that word in front of it here and don't "F'ing swear" in front of women and children. Time, place, and manner. I also don't use it in professional settings. I wouldn't have used it if I am in a similar situation as Andersen here, today. I'm also 35 years old instead of 19. At 19, I probably would have gotten the ticket and would have said the same thing. I never was (and still am not) that respectful of authority. That's why I'm not a democrat.

Besides, use your 5th Amendment rights and don't talk to the Police!

There's also a difference between disapproving of a behavior and using government sanctions against the behavior.

Andersen said this was the first ticket he’s ever received; he said he doesn’t even have a speeding ticket.
Andersen fought the ticket but lost when he went before a Livingston County District Court magistrate to present his side of what happened. He was fined $200.
Andersen said he doesn’t think it was right to issue him a ticket without a warning. If he had been warned, he would have listened to the officer.
“I would have respected his authority,” he said.
At the hearing, Andersen said the police testified they had given him a warning, something he denies happened.

The infamous informal hearing. The judge/magistrate hears what the cop says and hears what you say. He knows the cops well because he always sees him in court at informal hearings. He likely believes the cop's version. He may or may not believe you. As soon as he said that he swore under his breath, he lost. Informal hearings are like the Judge Joe Brown show (arbitration), not an actual trial. This is a civil infraction with broader rules as well that are not in a defendant's favor. The cops says he gave a warning. I don't know if that's true. It wouldn't be the first time a cop lied in court. Maybe he lied. Maybe he didn't. I wasn't there. Cops tend to have zero patience with a friend of someone ticketed, arrested, or detained.

Before I got my State Bar Association Pnumber, I got a car accident ticket when I was rear-ended. It was for "unable to stop with assured clear distance." I lost in an informal hearing after the East Lansing PD lied in court. Judge David Jordon, now retired (thank God) sided with the cop. I would have argued it much differently today than I did then. Again, that was before I got the P number. First off, I'd always take the formal hearing and deal with attorneys, not the informal hearing with only cops and a district judge or magistrate.

What I don't know is what the exact ordinance Andersen was accused of violating. He might have been screwed just for getting the cop's attention in a "parking lot". There's two "Disorderly Conduct" ordinances listed on the City of Brighton's website. One has to do with parking lots.

Sec. 54-104. Disorderly conduct at parking lots.

(a)  Purpose. Because the city council is convinced of the ever present danger to the safety of persons using the public parking lots located in the city, it is the objective of the city to prevent injuries to persons using the public parking lots. Accordingly, in order to avoid accidents resulting in personal injuries and property damage, and thereby protect the health, safety and welfare of all individuals using the public parking lots, the council wishes to prohibit the use of public parking lots situated in the city for any purpose other than for the parking of motor vehicles and for purposes incident thereto and for the purpose of serving pedestrian traffic to and from points outside of said parking lots. This section is not intended to limit the intent or the effect of this article.
(b)  Conduct prohibited. No person shall:
(1)  Conduct himself in any parking lot so as to create a hazard to himself or others who are using the public parking lot.
(2)  Use such parking lot for any purpose other than the parking of a motor vehicle, or the movement of such motor vehicle incident thereto, or travelling to and from such motor vehicle, or traversing such parking lot on foot or bicycle from and to points outside of said parking lot.
(c)  Any person found to violate this section shall be guilty of a civil infraction and shall be punished by a fine(s) as set forth in section 1-16(b).
(Code 1981, § 121.3; Ord. No. 482, § I, 7-17-03)

If this was a swearing charge, it'd likely get tossed out after the infamous Rifle River case which was unconstitutionally vague. This might be argued on those grounds, but this is a little different of an ordinance. However, it looks like Andersen got the ticket because he said that the cop's ticket to his friend was "F'ing bullshit".  He said that and the chief of police didn't disagree with that leading to the ticket.There is a lot that could be tossed out in court. It's not fought because a lot of these are civil infractions or smaller misdemeanors.  It costs less money to not fight these than it does to get an attorney and fight these in a formal hearing. It's less headache. No time has to be taken off from work by paying the fines. There's no attorney fees which will be much more than $200.

I don't like catch all ordinances (ie....the annoy law, even disorderly conduct) and they should often be fought on vagueness grounds among others. Law should be specific, clear, and easy to understand. 

He shouldn't have sworn at the cop, even if the ticket to his friend is "F'ing bullshit." He's not going to help his friend that way and he got the cop's attention. There may have been women and kids that heard that. At 19, he's supposed to be an adult. Should that have deserved a disorderly conduct for that? I don't think so. I don't the road that goes down. Not everything should be a legal matter.


Jordan Genso said...

"There's also a difference between disapproving of a behavior and using government sanctions against the behavior."

Exactly. That's the key that so many people miss. They think to themselves "I don't like that the teenager swore within a hundred yards of a playground" and therefore see nothing wrong with the police punishing him for it. But you don't get to use the government to punish those whose speech you disapprove of (with some notable exceptions- slander, threats, etc).

blogger152 said...

He didn't swear at the cop he walked away

Lori said...

You wrote about the legal end of it but there is a different side to this. Do I agree with the punishment? No, not really. The cop most likely got his ego hurt and went too far. Maturity on the teen played into his part of it. Of course, I would hope at 19 that there would be a bit more maturity but obviously not the case. Maturity would have dictated to him, just walk away. He wasn't the one that got the first ticket anyway, so disagreeing was fine but not his place to be vocal about it. There is a respectful place to disagree which would have been the court and that burden fell completely on the friend who got the ticket. Respect for others is sorely lacking these days. People need to keep their negative opinions to themselves.