Florida Man Arrested for Profane Bumper Sticker

Free speech cases often require defending obnoxious speech or people. Dillon Shane Webb, 23, appears to be both. Webb is one of those people who think that it is funny to say obscene things and does not care at all about how his speech is impacting children or others. For that reason, Webb thought it was really, really funny to have a window sticker reading “I eat ass.” When he was asked to take down or change the offensive sticker, he refused and was arrested for criminal obscenity. The problem is that obscenity often depends who defines what is obscene. For free speech advocates, it is a standard that invites subjectivity and ambiguity in an area that depends bright line rules. That does not mean however that we cannot and should not denounce Webb for his offensive and careless speech.

On Sunday at 5:50 pm, a deputy sheriff saw the sticker on Webb’s brown Chevrolet truck and asked Webb about the offensive language and to consider how “a parent of a small child would explain the meaning of the words,” to which Webb replied that it would be “up to the parent.”

So the deputy was able to confirm that Webb is an absolute jerk. However, he then proceeded to write up a summons under Florida Statute 847.011:

Florida Statute 847.011, which states in pertinent part:

“(2) Except as provided in paragraph (1)(c), a person who knowingly has in his or her possession, custody, or control any obscene book, magazine, periodical, pamphlet, newspaper, comic book, story paper, written or printed story or article, writing, paper, card, picture, drawing, photograph, motion picture film, film, any sticker, decal, emblem or other device attached to a motor vehicle containing obscene descriptions, photographs, or depictions, any figure, image, phonograph record, or wire or tape or other recording, or any written, printed, or recorded matter of any such character which may or may not require mechanical or other means to be transmuted into auditory, visual, or sensory representations of such character, or any article or instrument for obscene use, or purporting to be for obscene use or purpose, without intent to sell, lend, give away, distribute, transmit, show, transmute, or advertise the same, commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. A person who, after having been convicted of violating this subsection, thereafter violates any of its provisions commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. In any prosecution for such possession, it is not necessary to allege or prove the absence of such intent.”

Florida law defines “obscene” according to the Supreme Court’s controversial rulings applying “contemporary community standards” — a standard that has always been opposed by free speech advocates as imposing the values of the majority on their neighbors. It also must “appeal to the prurient interest” which involves acts that are reveal; a shameful or morbid interest in sex, nudity, or excretion. Finally, it must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Notably, the deputy suggests that Webb simply remove one “s” in “ass” to make it less immediately offensive though that would read “I eat as” — which would leave many wondering “you eat as what?”

As will come as no surprise to people on this blog, I favor the free speech position against such laws. However, I also find Webb to be a thoroughly crude and inconsiderable person. The first amendment however is not needed to protect popular people or popular speech.

By the way, the deputy also charged Webb with resisting an official without violence — another crime that civil libertarians have objected to as vague and often subjective. There is no indication of how Wedd resisted beyond contesting the view of the officer.

What do you think should happen?

63 thoughts on “Florida Man Arrested for Profane Bumper Sticker”

  1. Dude was quickly released, and is now quite properly contemplating a lawsuit. It’s call the First Amendment people.

  2. Excessive prudishness is a flaw. I see nothing at all offensive in “I EAT ASS.” It is likely the parents, not the children, who get offended by such inane statements (bumper stickers). “However, I also find Webb to be a thoroughly crude and inconsiderable person,” notes Turley. How one can make such a general judgement regarding a citizen based on 3 words is mind-boggling! And what about the cop? Didn’t he have anything better to do than to stop a man for three written words? It is events like that, as well as personal experience, that make me hang up the phone when cops call asking for money. Cops do not work for plebes. They work for those in power.
    G. Tod Slone, Ed., The American Dissident

  3. Really? Ass: an animal of the horse family, which is typically smaller than a horse and has longer ears and a braying call.

    I’d laugh the prosecutors right out of court, prove the intent. It’s only dirty, if your mind tells you it is, seems Turley, the police and a few others, who know not the intent of the sticker, have filthy minds.

  4. While serving jury duty in Compton, CA, I found myself behind a car with a huge female private prominently displayed on the rear facing portion of the deck lid of the car in front of me.

  5. On Sunday at 5:50 pm, a deputy sheriff saw the sticker on Webb’s brown Chevrolet truck and asked Webb about the offensive language and to consider how “a parent of a small child would explain the meaning of the words,” to which Webb replied that it would be “up to the parent.

    You know you’re living in a police state when a deputy sheriff can stop, harass and arrest you for words found on a bumper sticker.

    How about asking the deputy sheriff to explain to “a parent of a small child why their child was murdered during a no-knock raid on their home in the dark of night based upon the affidavit of a criminal informant with a known history of lying.

    So the deputy was able to confirm that Webb is an absolute jerk.

    No. The absolute jerk is the costume wearing turd stain who apparently has nothing to do while on duty other than harass people for words found on bumper stickers. What an asset to the community. The jails in Florida must not be full enough.

    Did the loser in blue seize Mr. Webb’s vehicle too? Whats a little civil asset forfeiture for not obeying a clearly unconstitutional statue.

    Any child with an internet connection or a television has heard/seen words and acts that pale in comparison to the words on Mr. Webb’s bumper sticker.

    Is the deputy sheriffs name Barney Fife?

    What do you think should happen?

    The charges against Mr. Webb should be dropped and the deputy sheriff fired for acting in all manner a petty tyrant concerned with someones words rather than someones deeds.

    As for Florida Statute 847.011 it should be deemed unconstitutional and stricken from the books.

    Sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you

    Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness so long as it is done from your knees while you’re genuflecting to the all powerful omnipresent authority of the state.

  6. Well, as a mother myself I don’t care for profanity in public when children are present. I’m willing to say, “Come on, guys, language” when people are cursing around kids. They usually apologize and knock it off. If it becomes clear that the venue is getting too adult, then moms just take their kids and leave. There was an era when men were supposed to refrain from cursing around ladies and kids, and when ladies had a high standard of behavior. The respect for women and protective instinct for children might be lacking in how people are raised nowadays.

    I would not want anyone arrested for cursing in public, either in writing or verbally. That’s something that should be culturally frowned upon, not criminalized.

    Laws against indecency such as public nudity (health hazard) or rolling in the hay in view of the public (traumatic for children and health hazard) make more sense than trying to enforce laws against cursing.

  7. Free speech is a strong American legal principle as applied to the free-flowing marketplace of problem-solving ideas and their communication.

    However, free speech coexists with maintaining norms of civility, lest the public square descend into a cacophony of deceitful, manipulative babble, drowning out a truth-seeking meeting ground, and undermining constructive problem-solving. A technocrat fool might squander norms of civility, blinded by the comparative simplicity of unregulated public hedonism and narcissism, but at some point the survival value of rules of decorum becomes overwhelming.

    This is why we have different norms for private conduct vs. public. This is why communications are highly structured and refereed by a powerful figure in a Court of Law. It’s why we don’t allow unproven claims of health benefits in medical commerce.
    The number of public arenas where intentionally deceptive speech and print are allowed to go unchallenged by law have been dwindling over time.

    The same goes for public behaviors meant to shock, outrage, disrupt, disgust and terrorize. Where not policed by actual law, these excesses are policed by citizens upholding norms of behavior. Norms are a more flexible system than laws in their ability to be be applied to novel situations in the moment.

    I say let the charges stand against this buffoonery. I don’t denounce the person who put this sign in his car window (as JT does), just the behavior. I assume that this individual will accept correction from his community, and come away with a better understanding of acceptable norms of public behavior. If he wants to hang the sign inside his house facing inward, fine.

    1. None if this word salad has anything remotely related to the centuries of case law outlining the parameters of the First Amendment.

      this is to “huh? I was just kinda makin’ it up as I went” pbinca

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