Freedom to bark denied

By Lawyers Weekly|03 March 2012

Raising the question of whether law enforcement in Mason, Ohio, has anything better to do than prosecute somebody for barking at a dog, a judge this week has rejected a man's First Amendment…

Raising the question of whether law enforcement in Mason, Ohio, has anything better to do than prosecute somebody for barking at a dog, a judge this week has rejected a man's First Amendment defense, reports Lowering the Bar.

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Ohio man Ryan Stephens is facing trial for barking at Timber the police dog after a judge deemed Stephens' argument that "prosecuting him for barking violated his First Amendment rights" invalid.

Stephens was arrested for "assaulting a police dog", after he allegedly walked up to the window of a police cruiser and barked at a police dog inside. When arrested, Stephens reportedly argued that "the dog started it" but will now have to make that argument to a jury.

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Stephens didn't make contact with the dog (luckily for him), but the law also provides that no person shall "recklessly ... [t]aunt, torment, or strike a police dog or horse ...."

The prosecution argued that even if the barking was speech, it would constitute "fighting words" because it upset Timber.

The judge held that the barking was conduct, not speech, and that even if it was speech, the law was aimed at conduct and any "impairment of a First Amendment right is incidental."

Freedom to bark denied
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