David G. Moore Attorney At Law
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What's said 'in the heat of the moment' can lead to trouble

There are some criminal charges that, while not always in practice, at least in name describe a certain offense. Then, there is a charge like disorderly conduct. Although there are parameters set by ordinance and statute, the term itself is broad; doing little to describe for the average citizen exactly which behaviors might disrupt the peace.

For a teenager in Brighton, Michigan, this meant cursing under his breath after police officers told him and his friends that they were no longer welcome to congregate in a particular parking lot. Of course, there is a little bit more to the story.

The incident began when police officers spotted a teenage boy riding his skateboard in the downtown parking lot located next to a play area. Officers ticketed the boy and then instructed the entire group of friends that they were to immediately disperse.

It was then that a friend began to argue “a little bit” with the officers. He said that he felt it was unfair to make the group leave because one had broken a rule. The friend then said in frustration that the request wasn’t fair, but he had used a couple of expletives instead. It was then that he was slapped with a charge of disorderly conduct.

Officers said that the boy said the curse words loud enough that if they could hear it, children in the play area nearby could hear it. The officer said that they targeted this particular group because they were misbehaving. Under other circumstances, the officers said that they would allow groups of teens to hang out downtown.

“I don’t think I deserve this ticket,” the teen later said at a court hearing. He admitted that his parents told him he could have better handled a situation involving police officers, and he might take their advice not to argue next time. However, he said his words were muttered under his breath and that it wasn’t right to make the entire group leave in the first place, that they had a right to be there too.

Besides the fact that he believed they should be allowed to “hang out,” the teen also said he thought this country was about free speech or expressing an opinion -- in this case about what he saw as an injustice.

We tend to say things we may not mean to when we are upset, frustrated or even scared. Remember that what we say to law enforcement can and probably will be used against us later. This is a reminder that in any situation involving a police officer, especially involving a serious criminal offense, we have a right to remain silent and consult with an attorney first.

Source: USA TODAY, “Cursed? Teen gets $200 ticket for playground profanity,” Jim Totten, May 19, 2014

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