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Cursing on Bus: Man Fined $500 for F-Bomb

By Jason Beahm on January 04, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"I cursed, and it cost me $500. Are you serious? Where in America do you get charged $500 for two words?" Terry Duncan said after receiving a ticket for swearing on the city bus. "'What do I get this for? What did I do wrong?"

So said Mr. Duncan after receiving a ticket from an undercover officer riding the bus with him in Milwaukee. (No, it wasn't a sting operation).

Terry Duncan told WISN-TV that he finds it un-American to be cited for disorderly conduct for cursing on the bus. Duncan was unaware that swearing on the bus was against the law and pointed out that the law is not posted on the bus. Surprisingly, it turns out that at least seven other states have similar laws on the books.

Duncan contends that he was merely having a conversation on the bus and that he did not direct his words towards anyone else. He plans to fight the ticket in court. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke says there is a zero-tolerance policy regarding disorderly conduct on buses, which he considers a quality-of-life issue, WISN reports.

It will be an interesting case to watch unfold. Is it really illegal to swear in public? The American Civil Liberties Union doesn't think so. "It may not be polite to swear at someone, but it's certainly not a crime," said Marieke Tuthill, an ACLU legal fellow speaking on another case. The police "should be focused on protecting public safety, not enforcing manners ... [the courts] have repeatedly found that profanity, unlike obscenity, is protected speech. We will continue bringing lawsuits until this illegal practice is stopped."

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