Letting a few innocent curse words slip out in Arlington, Virginia, could cost you big time. A new city ordinance has declared swearing in public a Code 4 misdemeanor. The fine is as steep as $250, simply for using bad language in the presence of others.
According to the New York Daily News, the Arlington fine on swearing was adopted by the Arlington County Board on Saturday. A fine of $100 was already in place for “appearing intoxicated or profanely cursing” in public, but that fine has been substantially increased. The change was prompted by the staggering 664 people who were arrested in Arlington last year for swearing while drunk in public.
The Washingtonian reported that Arlington officials have been actively trying to clean up the streets from foul-mouthed drunks and public lewdness for years now. Arlington once had a reputation for being an excellent town for drinking and bar crawls, but police had to start enforcing stricter regulations after last year’s events resulted in several large-scale bar fights, public urinations, and indecent exposures. One Arlington man reportedly took off all his clothes and tried to flee police in a vehicle.
In addition to the steeper $250 fine on swearing, the language of the Arlington ordinance changed the word “drunken” to “intoxicated” so that the regulation would effectively include people inebriated by substances besides alcohol.
But as strange as it might seem to place a fine on swearing in public, the new Arlington ordinance is far from unheard of in the state of Virginia. According to Arlington County Board spokeswoman Mary Curtius, the ban on bad language actually aligns Arlington with the official Virginia state code.
“We look at it as cleaning up language that was viewed as constitutionally vague,” she said.
Although the Arlington ordinance allowed a harsher penalty for swearing in public, it actually decreased the penalty for repeat offenders. Anyone charged and convicted more than three times in one year for swearing in public while intoxicated will only have to pay the flat $250 fine, rather than $500.
What do you think about Arlington’s decision to crack down on bad language? Would you take the risk and let out a few swear words in public, or is the fine not worth the crime?
For another story on legal punishments for swear words, read about the Michigan teen who was fined for swearing near a playground — a case that prompted a politician to lead a curse word-filled rally for free speech called the “F***ing Bullsh** Rally.”