1st Amendment B*tches: Connecticut Man Sues NY Town for Violating Civil Rights when He’s Arrested for Cursing them out in Writing on his Speeding Ticket Payment Form
Liberty, NY…. It’s in Sullivan, County, about 100 miles Northwest of Manhattan and, per the 2010 census it has a population round about 9,885. Apparently they like to give out speeding tickets but they don’t seem to like getting “customer feedback”…
Enter William Barboza, who in 2012 was a 22 y/o man who resided in Fairfield County, Connecticut and who had the misfortune of receiving a speeding ticket as he traveled through Liberty, NY. Rather than fighting the citation Billy B opted to send in his payment, but when he did so he took the “liberty” of telling the folks in Liberty, how he felt about the situation. C’mon, you know…
So Billy B took pen to paper, literally, and protested his speeding ticket by writing the following three (3) curse words on his payment form: “f*ck your sh*tty town b*tches”. In addition, he scratched out the Village’s name, “Liberty”, and inserted the word “Tyranny” on the payment form, and what happened next is, well, awesome….
So the Clerk, a woman (apparently all of Liberty’s Clerks are female) who received the altered form and check got her panties all in a bunch and, instead of processing it took the document to a local Liberty Judge when took it upon himself to both refer the altered speeding payment form to a prosecutor and who also ordered Billy B to appear before him in court. When Billy B appeared the local Judge reprimanded him for his comments on the form, told him that he would be arrested, Seibel and then had him handcuffed and taken away before being released on a $200.00 bail.
Billy B successfully defended his “arrest” on First Amendment grounds (the criminal charge was eventually dismissed pursuant to the 1st) and he then filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Village of Liberty for their unconstitutional actions. Enter U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel who ruled on Thursday, September 10th, 2015, that the lawsuit will go forward. Per Judge Seibel: “[Barboza’s] phrase was crude and offensive to some but ‘did not convey an imminent threat and was made in the context of complaining about government activity. That the court clerks who received plaintiff’s message were apparently alarmed by it does not alter the analysis.” Judge Seibel found that in between 2003 and 2012 as many as 63 arrests by police officers in the Village of Liberty had occurred “because of the use of vulgar words in what may be perceived as a threatening context.” The Judge said that one (1) such arrest occurred when a defendant called someone a slut, another resulted from someone talking about sexual acts on a police department phone line and yet another came after a defendant threatened to kill someone’s dog. Judge Seibel said that “the village has no requirement to insure its officers are trained on the First Amendment” and she went further by saying that the trial would include a damages phase for a prosecutor who is not protected by immunity because his actions were unreasonable. WHOA! The New York Civil Liberties Union publicized a transcript of the proceedings and you can read more about it on their website, which you can access by clicking here.
For his part Billy B was quoted as saying that he was treated as a criminal for a “few harmless words. Instead of protecting freedom of speech, government officers in Liberty handcuffed me, arrested me for a crime and almost sent me to jail because I harmlessly expressed my frustration with a speeding ticket. The people I trusted to uphold the law violated my most basic rights. 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.” Memo to Billy B:
Memo to Billy B continued: It is neither easy nor cheap to stand up for your rights, so mega-props to you for doing so. You have not only helped yourself (btw – I hope that you collect a fat paycheck from both the Village of Liberty and the douchebag of a prosecutor who didn’t have sense enough to remember his 1st year law school class on constitutional law) but you have also helped others, both directly (by forcing the Village to adopt standards to properly train their personnel) and indirectly (by sending a message to cops, prosecutors and most especially a Judge, that their job it to enforce the law not to float above it).
Memo to the overly sensitive Deputy Clerk in Liberty Village:
When it comes to the subject of “Cops, Courts and Constitutions” you should always have a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney who is focused on serving your interests. While we can’t stop the cops from arresting you, as your legal counsel Michael A. Haber, PA will ensure that your rights are respected from the moment that representation begins and that any abuses which may have occurred beforehand are remedied.
At Michael A. Haber, P.A. “Its all about reasonable doubt”!
Michael A. Haber, Esq. is prepared to speak with you about your case!
Cell: 305-798-2220; Office: 305-381-8686; Toll Free: 1-888-SHARK-8-1
THIS BLOG POST (AS ARE ALL OF HABERPA BLOG POSTS) IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT WHICH IS PRIMARILY DESIGNED, BY WAY OF REAL WORLD EXAMPLE, TO ASSIST THE GENERAL PUBLIC IN AVOIDING CONDUCT WHICH COULD FORESEEABLY RESULT IN ARREST AND PROSECUTION!
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