New Mexico cops falsely arrested a grown adult citizen in public for saying “fuck”, now Farmington taxpayers agreed to pay $25,000 to settle the resulting censorship lawsuit under the 1st Amendment.
Three Farmington officers grossly overstepped their boundaries acting as censors, when they arrested Trujillo for violating the local Disorderly Conduct ordinance, in the absence of any provoked parties when he said “fuck” in an IHOP restaurant.
In fact, the family with small children whom police claimed to be protecting refused to give their names or in any way become involved in the three officers’ false arrest “to ensure the obscene language didn’t continue.”
Without threat of a fight or injury, there’s no probable cause for a Disorderly Conduct arrest which is commonly called a “contempt of cop” charge for its frequent use by police in punishing citizens for disagreement, with false arrest.
The police were disorderly in this case, starting a fight that’s gone on in courts for years.
New Mexico’s state constitution also has extra safeguards against this type of law enforcement overreach, as Trujillo’s counsel pointed out in his lawsuit against the a City of Farmington for arresting the man who said “fuck”, as you can see below.
Unfortunately, the town of Farmington’s Police Chief Hebbe doesn’t seem to give even one flying fuck about the un-American actions of his cops, since the settlement doesn’t admit guilt.
Local news outlet KOB reported:
“In the course of a conversation that’s one thing, but in the course of loud, boisterous or intoxicated language in a restaurant with children and families around who are objecting to it – that is something different,” said Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe.
You can’t say it on TV or radio, but can you say it loudly in a restaurant with in ear shot of small children?
“It certainly depends on the circumstances,” says Hebbe. “In this case we think the officers were correct in interpreting the law in the way they did.” Bottom line: is the f-word legal in Farmington?
“You can swear,” Hebbe said. “Of course there is a First Amendment right to say things; it is the circumstances surrounding it that dictates what we will do.”
The number of taxpayer bleeding, government embarrassing settlements over the use of profanity in public seems to be growing daily, and this public official’s reaction to the settlement illustrates perfectly why.
The incident happened all the way back in 2013 when three Farmington police officers overheard Tye Trujillo say “fuck” several times while they were dining at the local IHOP.
After demanding to restrain Trujillo from speaking, the New Mexico cops then arrested the man for his speech.
Trujillo was charged with the all too familiar contempt of cop charge “Disorderly Conduct”.
The citizen was convicted in a Municipal Court of the charge, but exonerated after an appeal to a state level court.
The local ordinance in Farmington reaches far beyond the language of the state of New Mexico’s more narrowly written statute which is more explicit in defining Disorderly Conduct as the use of “fighting words” that provoke an immediate and reasonable response in the average citizen.
It in fact, the Farmington ordinance might not stand up to a constitutional challenge had Trujillo wanted to take the case all the way, while the New Mexico state law has withstood the tests of time, and even cases where legitimate convictions have been won under it against people saying “fuck you” like the 1991 case New Mexico vs James M where a young man tried to start a fight right in front of a cop and flailed his arms and made aggressive actions while speaking.
In that landmark decision, the court upheld the state statute and rightly applied the law as pertaining to a person’s actions combined with words, which can rise to the level of “fighting words” that exceed the boundaries of the 1st Amendement’s protections.
Free speech has not been, and never will be an absolute right, but absent willful provocations to fight, to riots or other breaches of the peace, people in America do have a right to say anything, even the profane, in public spaces.
Now adults in New Mexico are free-er to say “fuck”, so long as they avoid the thought police in Farmington.
Ed. Note: The cover photo of this story was shared by Farmington PD on Twitter and we shared that below if you’d like to help them fight Breast Cancer this week.
— Farmington Police NM (@FPDNM) September 21, 2015
KOB’s local video report and interview with the Chief of Police: