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Can I be arrested for swearing at a police officer?

Updated: Jul 5, 2022


No, you cannot be arrested for simply swearing at the police officer, as this is an exercise of free speech. However, you may be arrested if you threaten, physically touch, or otherwise incite violence against the officer.

Even though it is not a crime to swear at an officer, we advise against doing so. It can escalate a situation and may even lead to your arrest. If you are arrested solely for swearing at a police officer, contact an attorney right away.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects free speech. Because of the Amendment, police officers generally cannot arrest people, nor can the government prosecute them, simply for what they've said. There are, of course, exceptions to the prohibition against punishing speech. Statutes that outlaw speech that's likely to incite violence constitute an example. But officers can't use laws of this type simply to punish people who mouth off to them, even those who use profanity. (Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250 (2006), City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987).

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