Nomination for a Hero Badge-Court Edition

Those involved in the administration of criminal justice sometimes loose sight of the fact that their influence is limited.  If a defendant was an asshole prior to his/her indoctrination into the system, chances are those endearing qualities will remain when they exit the system.  They are still assholes only with a little less money in their pockets.

Judge rules man’s arrest for writing profanity on speeding ticket was unconstitutional.  I thought this was settled back in the 70’s but not as much in upstate New York.  The cops started this hare, but it was the Municipal Judge and Town Prosecutor who earned the “Hero Badge”.

Published September 16,

 Willian Barboza, who was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment in 2012 after he wrote profanities on a speeding ticket given to him in Liberty, N.Y. Last week, a federal judge ruled that Barboza’s First Amendment rights were violated and a lawsuit against the town could go forward (New York Civil Liberties Union)

A federal judge has ruled that an upstate New York town violated a Connecticut man’s First Amendment rights when he was arrested on a charge of aggravated harassment for writing profanities on a $175 speeding ticket three years ago.

In ruling issued last week, U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel allowed Willian Barboza’s lawsuit against the village of Liberty, N.Y. to proceed on claims the town of approximately 10,000 people 100 miles northwest of New York City failed to properly train police officers about free speech.

The New York Civil Liberties Union, which represented Barboza, publicized a transcript of the trial Tuesday.

Barboza, who was 22 at the time of his initial arrest, was stopped for speeding on Route 17 in May 2012, according to The New York Times. On his payment form, Barboza crossed out the name of the town and wrote “Tyranny” in its place. He then wrote the phrase “F— your s—-y town b—-es.”

Mr. Barboza submitted the offending paperwork along with the payment for his fine.  The Deputy Court Clerks took exception to the language, referred it to the judge, who refused to accept the payment and passed the complaint to a prosecutor.  If Mr. Barboza had made these comments in open court I would be inclined to agree that he had fulfilled all the requirements to be found in contempt of court.

However, comments scrawled on a payment form sent through the mail?  In the immortal words of Steve Miller, “Take the Money and Run.”  I wish I had a quarter for every time I heard a cop at a crime scene or disturbance say to a defendant, witness or bystander, “Hey watch your fuckin’ mouth.”  If police and those engaged in criminal justice what to control a situation, they first have to learn how to control themselves.