Connecticut man William Barboza sued two Sullivan County police officers on Thursday after he was arrested for writing profanity and replacing the town’s name with “Tyranny” on a speeding ticket.
The 22-year-old man returned his ticket and rejected the fine followed by a request that he appear in court. When he arrived, he was handcuffed to a bench and booked in a holding facility with a $200 bail bond.
Though Barboza’s charges for the incident were dropped in March, he said he wants to make sure that no one else falls victim to the state’s same aggravated harassment law.
“No one should get arrested for speech,” Barboza said. “All I did was express my frustration with a ticket and I almost ended up in jail.”
The New York Civil Liberties Union, which joined with Barboza in filing the lawsuit, said the suit will also attempt to abolish the state’s aggravated harassment law. The law bans any speech with the intent to harass, threaten, alarm or annoy another person – something the NYCLU says is unconstitutional.
The NYCLU added that offensive language is protected speech.
The organization won a similar case in 2003, eradicating a law that allowed police to arrest anyone using speech to annoy or alarm anyone.
“New York’s aggravated harassment statute must be struck from the books, once and for all,” said NYCLU attorney Mariko Hirose.
Sullivan County police have yet to comment.