This incident happened in New York – Liberty, New York to be exact but it could now happen anywhere in the country.
Have you ever gotten steamed over a ticket and let off a few choice words? Would you expect to be arrested for it.
Some local governments think writing nasty notes warrants an arrest.
William Barboza, a Connecticut man was ticketed in Liberty New York for speeding. He paid the ticket but crossed off the word “Liberty” off it and wrote in “Tyranny”. He also put down a few sexual epithets ( “f–k your sh—y town b—-es” ).
The village court rejected the check and ordered him to appear in person. When he got there, he was arrested by two officers on order of the District Attorney for the charge of “aggravated harassment”. he was handcuffed and held for hours. The charges were eventually dismissed.
A White Plains U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel said Mr. Barboza can sue the village for damages. “I find unsurprisingly that defendants, violated plaintiff’s First Amendment rights. Expressions like the ones at issue here…though crude and offensive to some, did not convey an imminent threat and was made in the context of complaining about government activity.”
Liberty has prosecuted 60 people for “annoyance or alarm”, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The judge in this case said the prosecutor was liable and the village would have to stand trial on a claim that it failed to train police properly on the First Amendment.
Mr. Baraboza, 22 years of age at the time, said he was frustrated because, though he was speeding, he was traveling at the same speed as the rest of the traffic. He was just “blowing off steam.”
“I hope that by standing up for myself, other Americans will not be treated like criminals for complaining about their government with a few harmless words, Barboza said.
Liberty lawyers were ordered to enter into settlement discussions. They are considering an appeal.
Source: Newsday, September16, 2015, print edition