Police officers aren't legal experts. No court expects them to know the intricacies of the laws they're paid to enforce. Close enough is good enough when it comes to pretextual stops, street-level friskings, and other assorted Constitutional skirtings.
But no one but a cop would know the ins and outs of stupid laws left on the books by careless legislators or how to wield them like weapons against those who dare to start hassling The Man. Got a criminal defamation law still laying around? Why not use it to arrest and charge criticsgathering a few too many eyeballs to their personal blogs. Any number of charges, from disorderly conduct to "assaulting an officer" can be made to cover "contempt of cop" arrests. And every stupid "Blue Lives Matter" law has been abused at least once, with the oversensitive cops of New Orleans leading the way.
Given that two-thirds of the links above direct you to Louisiana law enforcement officers and officials, it should come as no surprise Louisiana officers are using another bad law to bring criminal charges against people who aren't absolutely enthralled with their law enforcement experience. (via The Watch)
On April 30, 2015, William Aubin Jr. was at home with his wife in Livingston Parish, Louisiana when a patrol car from the sheriff’s office pulled onto his street. The deputy, William Durkin, was there to investigate a reckless driving complaint. Aubin wasn’t involved in the incident but he knew about it and went outside of his home to speak with Durkin. During a vulgar and combative conversation, according to Aubin, Durkin repeatedly called Aubin a “pussy.”
“I’m calling your supervisor,” Aubin said. “I’m gonna get you fired.” Aubin took out his cell phone, called the sheriff’s department, and started walking back towards his house. But before he made it inside, Durkin arrested him. The charge: intimidation of a public official — a felony that in Louisiana carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.
This isn't the first time the law's been used to charge someone for attempting to file a complaint. Michael Stein of In Justice Today points out the same charge was leveled against Travis Seals, an arrestee seeking to file a complaint after he was pepper sprayed despite already being handcuffed. Seals got another charge added to his docket: public intimidation.
In both cases, the state DA showed up in court to defend the use of the law to charge citizens looking to file complaints.This law should have been tossed in the legislative trash last year when a federal judge had this to say about it:
In a September 2017 ruling, Chief Judge Brian A. Jackson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana pilloried the application of the statute in the Aubin case. “The right to criticize the police without risk of arrest distinguishes a democracy from a police state,” he wrote.
The same thing happened in the Seals case. Another federal judge took a look at the law and found it egregiously unconstitutional, considering it could be deployed to arrest people complaining about cops, filing lawsuits against government officials, or voting for the "wrong" public officials.
Anything a public employee could possibly takes offense to can be construed as "intimidation." ANYTHING.
In August 2017, the ACLU condemned the statute after it was used in the case of a Northern Louisiana man who raised his middle finger to a state trooper.
Despite the law's clear lack of constitutionality, the state District Attorney continues to fight for the law's continued existence. So do law enforcement officials. Sheriff Ard -- a defendant in the Aubin lawsuit -- claimed the law was necessary to prevent "threats" from "influencing the behavior of police officers." Seems like better training and better officers would take care of this problem -- especially when the "threat" consists of curse words, extended fingers, and filing complaints.
Despite the legal challenges, the law lingers. It will continue to be abused until it's rewritten or stricken. State prosecutors have already shown their willingness to treat these as criminal violations, rather than law enforcement abusing the law and their position to shut down criticism of police officers.
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