An Appropriate Limit on the First Amendment Right To Be A Total Jerk

"Pardon? I'm not sure I understood that last remark."

If you peruse the various debates on Ethics Alarms, you will note that every time someone writes or says something cruel, dishonest or uncivil that appropriately brings down criticism or worse on the miscreant’s noggin, he and his defenders  will argue that the First Amendment should render them immune from the consequences of their words. This is not what the First Amendment is about, however. It is about the government not being able to punish them for what they say, with some exceptions. Even then, it is possible to be so inarticulate in your jerkish expression that your utterances are beyond even that constitutional protection.

For example, when you bark like a dog.

Or to be more accurate, when you set out to tease and annoy a police dog by barking. Mason, Ohio has an  ordinance making it a crime to “willfully and maliciously taunt, torment, [or] tease … any dog used by the Police Department in the performance of the functions or duties of such Department.” That’s exactly what Mason Police Officer Brad Walker found a drunken Ryan Stephens doing to Timber, a K-9 German Shepard behind a screen in his police cruiser. Continue reading