Swearing Mom's First Amendment Defense Fails

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Despite her claim that her actions were protected under the First Amendment, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld a conviction that sentenced a mother to jail after she swore at her son.

In 2012, Ginger Breitzman, 44, screamed and hurled profanity at her 14-year-old son after he burned some popcorn, USA Today reports.

Breitzman called her son a retard, a f**k face and a piece of s**t, the filing with the Wisconsin Supreme Court says.

The teenager was on the phone with a friend, who overheard the tirade, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Breitzman was sentenced to six months in jail with release privileges after she was convicted of disorderly conduct and child abuse.

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She was also found guilty of child abuse. While investigating the situation, authorities found this was not the first time Breitzman had exhibited similar behavior.

Court records reveal Breitzman was also physically abusive and neglectful. In the past, she had hit her child for failing to "wash the floor" and "prepare a meal."

During the winter, she had locked the boy out of the house. On another occasion, she failed to seek medical care for the teenager when he when he was sick for a week with vomiting and diarrhea.

While in jail, Breitzman appealed the disorderly conduct conviction, arguing her attorney failed by not arguing the charges violated her First Amendment rights. Breitzman said her tirade against her son was protected speech as she was not inciting violence nor posing a real threat.

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Ultimately the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the original conviction. The court said freedom of speech is still "unsettled law" and defended the mother's attorney for not using the argument.

"[While] this case touches on an interesting issue of free speech law, we reserve full analysis of what constitutes profane speech and whether profane speech is otherwise protected as free speech for another day," Justice Annette Ziegler wrote.

The judgment quickly sparked controversy online.

Some did not support the woman's conviction.

"She's guilty of being a bad mom but this swearing conviction is just stupid and does violate free speech," argued one person in USA Today's comments section.

Others defended the sentence.

"If you read the actual charges, this woman continually abused the child physically and emotionally for many months, keeping a lock on the refrigerator and locking him out of the house in the cold," added another. "There's much more to this story."

"Even if this were a free speech issue, and it's not even close, your rights cannot usurp that of others," commented a third. "Which is why things like 'slave contracts' aren't legally enforceable even if the other party willingly signs it. Children have rights to protection and safety."

Sources: USA Today,Supreme Court of Wisconsin,Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Featured Image: Bloomsberries/Flickr / Embedded Images: fir0002/Wikimedia Commons, Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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