September 11, 2009

Man cited under 1887 profanity law

Authorities in Winona, Minn., said a man was cited under a seldom-enforced 1887 city code banning profanity in public.

Police said Lucas Charles Wilcox, 19, allegedly shouted vulgarities at police who gave him a ticket for drinking at a party Wednesday, resulting in citations for swearing in public and being a public nuisance, the Winona Daily News reported Friday.

No person shall, in the city, in any place of public resort or within the hearing of other persons, use any obscene language, states the 1887 city code, which carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

A Winona assistant city attorney couldn't give an example of the law being successfully prosecuted and Steve Simon, a clinical professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said prosecution could run into some constitutional issues.

There could well be some First Amendment issues with an ordinance that broad, Simon said.