8th Circuit Finds That Yelling an Expletive at a Police Officer is Constitutionally Protected Speech

The ruling stemmed from the arrest of a man who had yelled “f— you” out of his car window at an Arkansas state trooper.

The man, Eric Thurairajah, reportedly yelled the expletive from across a highway while the state trooper was making a traffic stop. The officer then took off after Thurairajah and arrested him for disorderly conduct.

Thurairajah sued the officer for the violation of his civil rights under the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable seizures. He also claimed that retaliation was taken against him for exercising his First Amendment rights.

Thurairajah had no explanation for his comment. He did not know the police officer or the woman who had been stopped by the officer.

Still, the Court found that the mere act of yelling an expletive at a police office was protected by the First Amendment.

Judge Lavenski R. Smith, who wrote the opinion for the case, said the young man’s conduct “may have been offensive” but did not even arguably amount to probable cause for an arrest.

Additional Resources

Eric Roshaun Thurairajah v. City of Fort Smith et al.

Appeals court rules that yelling expletive at police is constitutionally protected speech, The Washington Post, June 3, 2019

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