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NCJ Number: 136174 Find in a Library
Title: Fighting Words Doctrine
Journal: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin  Volume:61  Issue:4  Dated:(April 1992)  Pages:27-32
Author(s): D L Schofield
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
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Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
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Document: PDF
Publisher: https://www.fbi.gov 
Type: Training (Aid/Material)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The scope of the fighting words doctrine is examined in relation to speech directed to law enforcement officers.
Abstract: The first amendment protects a significant amount of speech directed towards police officers, including name calling and profanity as exemplified in Houston vs Hill. The court ruled that the Houston ordinance under which Hill was convicted violated the first amendment; it criminalized speech directed at an officer because it broadly authorizes police to arrest a person who in any manner verbally interrupts an officer. Courts expect officers to exercise a higher degree of restraint than the average citizen. A review of recent Federal and State court decisions reveal several generally-accepted principles that can assist officers in deciding whether to arrest for speech directed to them. These include a direct threat to officer safety, speech that disrupts performance; a higher standard of communication applied to police; and the ruling that profanity, name calling, and obscenity gestures do not constitute fighting words. To ensure constitutionality of arrests, officers are encouraged to review the first amendment principles and the fighting words doctrine. 35 notes
Main Term(s): Freedom of speech; Police arrest training
Index Term(s): State supreme courts; US Supreme Court decisions
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