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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    6

    Default Is it a Crime to Curse at Someone

    My question involves personal property located in the State of: Alabama

    Last week I was walking my 3 dogs (with leashes) down the middle of my street. About a block from my house, the neighbor's german shepard like dog sees my dogs and comes charging at us in the street. He was not on a leash but free in the yard. He was there with his owner. The dog immediately began to try to attack me and my dogs.

    Two of my dogs slipped their collars, one ran home and one ran into the woods near my house. The third, my smallest, was pinned by the dog. I screamed and hit the dog and eventually the dog's owner pulled him off. I grabbed my little dog and ran towards my house where I'd seen my one dog go. He was on my porch. I opened my house and put my two dogs in the house and went to find the third. At this point tons of my other neighbors have come outside and they're already off trying to get dog 3.

    Neighbor with the attacking dog immediately confronts me and says "didn't you see my dog in the yard. Don't you know he doesn't like other dogs". I'm crying looking for my third dog everywhere. I responded "you aren't even going to ask if we're ok! We have a leash law, why was your dog off leash?" The woman goes crazy and yells that there isn't a leash law. I tell her that there is and I'm calling the police. I continue to look for dog #3 frantically. She approaches me again and starts in on how there isn't a leash law and I don't need to overreact and call the police. I told her I already did and they were on their way. She tells me there's no need, that she's helping me find my dog so she doesn't know why I'm calling the police. I finally just look at her and say "F*ck off". She responds "I hope you don't find your dog and it dies". I broke down into tears and continued to look for my dog.

    The police arrive after a few more minutes and I tell them what happened. The officer asks me if I'm hurt, I say no. He asks if my dogs are hurt, I tell him I think the two I have are fine but I'm still missing one dog. I then tell him I've got people looking for her. He tells me there's nothing he can do if I'm not injured.

    I ask him "what about the leash law?" I volunteer at a local shelter so I'm pretty well informed on our dog laws. I know our town ordinance states that dogs need to be fenced or on leash even on private property. The officer tells me there isn't a leash law and the best he can do is ask the woman to contain her dog!!

    The officer then goes to talk to the woman who tells him that she tried to help me find my dog and I cussed her out. Go figure, I realize its my word against hers on what was said. She admits her dog was off leash and claims she was bringing him from his kennel in the yard to the house and just stopped to play ball with him for a minute. She also says her dog is old and missing most of his teeth so he can't harm anything (funny, he snarled and scared the crap out of me, teeth or no teeth). So, she doesn't dispute that her dog went after me and my dogs.

    The officer tells me what she's said and then asks me "why did you cuss her out?" I told him that she went crazy when I said I was calling the police and wouldn't leave me alone so I told her to "f*ck off". Then the officer said "well, you know that's illegal?" I was stunned and asked "telling her to F*ck off is illegal? She was screaming at me for calling the police". The officers final response is "she didn't break any laws, what you said to her was worse then what her dog did, you all just need to cool off!"

    I again tell him, dog #3 is still missing, I don't know if there's any damage. He tells me they have my number so if animal control finds my dog they'll let me know.

    A second officer was present. After the first officer leaves he steps in and tells me that I might be right about the leash law. He then gives me animal control's number so I can contact them to look for her. I thank him and then go join the search for my dog.

    I finally found my third dog 48 hours later. She was not harmed by the attack. I'm thankful the dog was missing most of his teeth because he would've really hurt them otherwise.

    I finally got in touch with the director of animal control and reported the incident today and told him I was unhappy with the way the officer handled the situation and that the officer wasn't aware of the leash law. He was helpful and confirmed that I was right about the leash law and the woman should've received a citation. He's following up on this part.

    My question, did I do something illegal by cursing at the woman? The officer seemed really adamant that I was in the wrong for my behavior. I just don't understand how my neighbor admits her dog was off leash and went after my dogs and I'm the one who gets scolded by the police officer?!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Is it a Crime to Curse at Someone

    Under First Amendment jurisprudence, the mere swearing in front of another adult should not result in a criminal charge. That said, it's possible through language (esp. "fighting words") to create a public disturbance, and in some jurisdictions you can potentially be charged due to a child's overhearing your tirade even if it was directed at an adult.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    3,837

    Default Re: Is it a Crime to Curse at Someone

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    View Post
    Under First Amendment jurisprudence, the mere swearing in front of another adult should not result in a criminal charge. That said, it's possible through language (esp. "fighting words") to create a public disturbance, and in some jurisdictions you can potentially be charged due to a child's overhearing your tirade even if it was directed at an adult.
    I agree. I am familiar with my states disorderly conduct statute's case law
    and concerning # 2, I do remember the case law saying, from reading it at the law library before, that such must be on the order of "fighting words" also. FO, I agree, is not fighting words under the 1st AM.

    2917.11 Disorderly conduct.

    (A) No person shall recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another by doing any of the following:

    (1) Engaging in fighting, in threatening harm to persons or property, or in violent or turbulent behavior;

    (2) Making unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture, or display or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person;

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Is it a Crime to Curse at Someone

    Those words of themselves, no, but the answer can change based upon the full context, such as when those words are combined with other words (which don't necessarily have to be 'swear words') or actions. The issue is moot here, as no charge was filed.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    6

    Default Re: Is it a Crime to Curse at Someone

    Thanks for the replies. What is the chance that something like this could even be prosecuted. Other neighbors did see that she was screaming at me before I cursed at her.

    My main concern now is that she yelled at me again when I walked down the street in front of her house (I have too, I live on a cul-de-sac and she's on the corner). She cursed at me for calling the police on her and said she's report me for trespassing (I wasn't, I was walking down the street with my dogs). I just ignored her and didn't respond this time. Eventually another neighbor came out and told her to knock it off. I don't want to engage in screaming matches with her at all every time I walk down the street. I kept my mouth shut this time because I don't want to get myself in trouble. I just don't know what to do, she's so mad that I dared to report her to animal control. If she follows me down the street screaming again am I going to get myself in trouble for telling her to f off?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Toledo, OH
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    16,079

    Default Re: Is it a Crime to Curse at Someone

    All you can really do is ignore her.

    If she resorts to following you down the street to shout at you, you might consider trying the trick my husband uses when he has to deal with belligerent customers in his store: drop your voice down very low, and in a very calm and detached tone, tell your neighbor that you're not interested in engaging her antics, and that you will be happy to discuss the situation when she grows up and calms down. I've yet to see this fail to render someone speechless.
    I'm not a lawyer, but I play a researcher on the internet!
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