WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today let stand a California court's ruling that profanities yelled at a police officer during a crime investigation constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.
The justices refused to hear an appeal by the state of California in the case of Gerald Callahan, who was found guilty in San Diego County Court of using words likely to provoke violence in a public place.
A California Court of Appeal overturned the jury verdict, ruling that Callahan's comments to the officer, however distasteful, were protected by the First Amendment.
The case arose in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 1983, when California Highway Patrol Officer C. F. George was sent to the scene of a traffic accident in Solana Beach involving a possible drunk driver. As George attempted to interview witnesses and clear the street, Callahan shouted various epithets at him.