A video has gone viral of the owner of a Washington state dispensary unleashing a profanity-laced verbal attack on state trooper, Yasin Anwar, who pulled over a driver near the Green Seed in Moses Lake, Washington, a marijuana shop. The owner has been identified as Amy Dalluge, who reportedly has a history of problems with the police. Some are calling for charges. As outrageous and unhinged as the verbal attack was, I do not agree that such verbal abuse should be criminally charged as a matter of free speech.
Dalluge is shown below unloading on the officer who did nothing wrong and merely pulled over a vehicle for the failure to wear a seatbelt. The driver pulled into the parking area in front of the pot shop.
Anwar remains professional and calm as Dalluge continues to rave.
“You’re on my f—ing land you b——. You better learn your f—ing place,” Dalluge continues as Anwar walks away from the pulled over vehicle. “I’ll f—ing take your wife right out of your f—ing bed, b—-. Oh wait, you’re not married, huh?”
The coverage states that “the state agency is currently investigating the video and said potential charges against Dalluge will be forwarded to the local prosecutor.”
The police chief of Moses Lake, Kevin Fuhr also said that his office filed a complaint against Dalluge following the video surfacing and gaining traction on social media.
Dalluge could face a suspended business license if she is formally charged.
The police are presumably considering a charge of disorderly conduct.
However, in my view, such a charge would be unconstitutional.
Profanity is protected speech. Citizens are allowed to denounce police. For example, in Thurairajah v. City of Fort Smith, the court heard a similar case. After an officer pulled over a driver, another driver stopped and started to scream profanities at the officer. The police charged that second driver with disorderly conduct.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that the verbal abuse was still protected speech.
More recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the defendant in Wood v. Eubanks, 25 F.4th 414 (6th Cir. 2022). The defendant called police officials a slew of profane names and was charged with disorderly conduct. The court ruled that “mere epithets” directed at a law enforcement officer are not exempt from First Amendment protections as fighting words.
The Supreme Court has routinely ruled that the First Amendment protects profanity. In 1971, the Court ruled in Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 25 (1971), that a defendant who walked through a courthouse wearing a jacket bearing the words “F**k the Draft” was engaged in protected speech.
In City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987), it addressed a man who also began to verbally abuse the police as they were attempting to carry out a traffic stop. He was charged under a city ordinance that made it unlawful to “oppose,” “abuse,” or “interrupt” an officer in the execution of his or her duty. Justice Brennan wrote for the Court in striking down the law as overbroad and violative of the First Amendment. He stressed that “[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”
Dalluge is worthy of widespread condemnation for her conduct, shown below. This is clearly bad speech, but it remains protected speech under the First Amendment.
WARNING THE VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS PROFANITY