The attorney for a 29-year old woman plans to sue in federal court after her client was arrested for cursing police.
Polite? No. But is it a criminal offense?
Amy Barnes said she was riding her bike in East Cobb County, last April, when she passed a couple of cops in the process of arresting two young men.
“I flipped them off as I was passing by, and I said, ‘F- the police!’” Barnes recalled.
So, Barnes may not be the most polite person in the world. But was that a crime? The officers thought so. They arrested her and charged her with disorderly conduct under Title 16 Section 16-11-39 of the Georgia Code, which says, in part, someone is guilty of disorderly conduct when he or she, without provocation, uses to or of another person in such other person's presence opprobrious or abusive words which by their very utterance ... naturally tend to provoke violent resentment.
Barnes spent a day in jail – part of it in solitary confinement because of her behavior in custody – before she was freed on $1,000 bond.
Cobb Police would not comment specifically on Barnes' arrest, because it is currently the subject of litigation. But the department did issue a statement saying such arrests are not at all unusual. So far this year, 147 people have been arrested under the statute cited above, according to Cobb Police Sgt. Dana Pierce.
However, Barnes’ attorney, Cynthia Counts, questioned whether such arrests over words alone are constitutional.
“Caustic and vehement speech is and should be constitutionally protected,” she said. Counts said she is filing a federal lawsuit on Barnes’ behalf.