Massachusetts Town Passes Foul-Mouthed Fines

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

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UPDATE: Monday, June 12, 2012

A store owner in the Massachusetts town of Middleborough says she's "really happy" that residents have voted to impose fines for swearing in public.

At a town meeting last night, residents approved a proposal from the police chief for a $20 fine for the foul-mouthed.

Mimi Duphily says she and other downtown merchants wanted to take a stand against the kind of language that can make customers uncomfortable. She says young people "sit on the bench and yell back and forth to each other with the foulest language."

Middleborough has had a bylaw against public profanity since 1968. But it's rarely been enforced, because officials say it wouldn't be worth the time and expense to pursue a case through the courts.

The new ordinance decriminalizes it, allowing police to write tickets as they would for a traffic violation.

It could raise questions about First Amendment rights. The legal director for the state ACLU says the Supreme Court has ruled that the government can't prohibit public speech just because it contains profanity.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Washing one's mouth out with soap may not be a modern day answer to curbing foul-mouthed language, but officials in one Massachusetts town say taking a bite out of the wallet might be an incentive to keep it clean.

The Middleborough town meeting was to vote Monday on a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.

Supporters say the proposal isn't meant to censor casual or private conversations, but instead crack down on loud profanity in downtown areas and public parks.

Middleborough has had a bylaw against public profanity since 1968. But it's rarely, if ever, been enforced, because it essentially makes swearing a crime.

The new proposal would decriminalize profanity, allowing police to write tickets as they would for traffic violations.


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