The town of Middleborough, Mass., recently revived a ban on swearing in public after foregoing enforcement for over 40 years.
The law allows officers to use their own judgment to give a $20 fine to anyone using curse words.
According to the Boston Globe, residents voted 183-50 to change swearing from a crime – rarely enforced – to an offense worthy of a ticket.
David Hudson of the First Amendments Center expects that the law will be ruled unconstitutional because swearing is a right to free speech, except for “fighting words, true threats, or incitement to eminent lawless action.”
The exceptions to the rule are “narrow definitions,” according to Hudson, leaving unanswered questions about which words can be used as well as how they can be used.
Sergeant Benjamin Mackiewicz said, “I think we all know, in our minds, what is inappropriate.”
According to MSNBC, the idea came from a member of the town’s beautification committee, Mimi DuPhily.
DuPhily said that she called for this law because teenagers in the area were swearing loudly, and that she felt uncomfortable with their “irresponsible behavior.”
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Caitlin Landers is a journalism intern at the Yankee Institute. She is a rising junior at Syracuse University studying broadcast digital journalism and international relations. She lives in Manchester.