Satellite Beach Police Officer Unlawfully Arrested Woman Violating Her Free Speech, ACLU Sues
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SATELLITE BEACH, Fla. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida today announced it filed suit on behalf of Kimberly Bock, who was unlawfully arrested and prosecuted for using profanity in the presence of two Satellite Beach police officers. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida on Friday, September 26. The judge hearing the criminal case against her threw it out of court, noting that the law is clear: using profanity alone cannot be cause for arrest.
Kimberly’s arrest came after police officers investigated a car accident involving her then-boyfriend, now husband. In February 2007, County Court Judge John C. Murphy, for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit covering Brevard County, dismissed the prosecution’s case because her speech did not incite a breach of the peace, threaten anyone verbally or physically, or interfere with the officers’ investigation of the accident. The judge ruled that Kimberly’s speech was protected by the First Amendment.
“Regardless of whether some people would consider the language she used rude, the Constitution does not allow police to arrest someone for simply using profanity, so long as it does not inflict injury or incite an immediate breach of peace, which Kimberly’s speech clearly did not do,” said Glenn Katon, Senior Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “Kimberly was upset because her boyfriend got into a careless accident and was being arrested. Her language was a reflection of her frustration – it was not cause for arrest.”
After arriving at the scene of a car accident, Kimberly made a profane remark directed to Clifford in front of the two police officers investigating the collision, William Heinz and Bert Berrios. Heinz said he was offended by her speech and he would arrest her if she continued to use profanity. Berrios later arrested her when she became upset that police we arresting her boyfriend.
Bock is seeking compensatory damages for having been deprived of her constitutionally protected rights causing her to lose wages and college class time due to attending hearings, as well as physical pain and suffering caused by her unlawful arrest.
Representing Ms. Bock are Glenn Katon, senior attorney with the ACLU of Florida, and Thomas J. Herbert, ACLU co-operating attorney. The complaint can be viewed in PDF at: www.aclufl.org/pdfs/bock%20complaint.pdf
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