Virginia Senate votes to decriminalize swearing in public
RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — It’s had to have had slipped out once or twice while you’re out in public, but did you know you could be fined in Virginia for saying certain words your mom taught you to never say?
In the commonwealth of Virginia, profane swearing in public is classified as a class four misdemeanor, and if you're caught, you could pay up to a $250 fine.
That crime, § 18.2-388 of the Virginia Code, states that "if any person profanely curses or swears or is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor."
But the part of that code addressing profanely swearing may soon change. On Wednesday in the General Assembly, the Senate voted 37-7 to pass HB 1071, which would remove the crime of profane swearing in public.
It had already passed in the House on a 76-24 vote.
"I definitely have done it before," Abram Love, a Harrisonburg resident, said. "If I stub my toe or something happens or I'm walking down the street, I'm not afraid of cursing because I'm not thinking I''m going to get a ticket."
Profane swearing in public has been illegal in the Commonwealth since before the Civil War and this is not the first time a bill like this has popped up in the General Assembly.
"It's been found to be unconstitutional, and we still haven't removed it," Virginia State Delegate Michael Webert said when he proposed a similar bill for the 2018 session.
But this year is the first time the bill has actually passed.
This year, the bill was introduced by Del. Dawn Adams of the 68th district.
After passing both the House and Senate on Wednesday, all the bill needs is Governor Ralph Northam's signature for the law to be gone for good.
But just because you would be able to curse in public, some say you should still be careful on using those four letter words.
"Of course you should still be aware of your surroundings," Love said. "I'm not going to playgrounds and be like, 'hey kid, let me tell you a dirty word.'"
Lily Flemming thinks you should still watch your mouth at a park, museum, or even library.
"I feel like in those places, you shouldn't say those words, but I think that's just common sense and it shouldn't be a law."
The bill does not address a separate part of the Virginia Code, which outlaws the use of obscene or indecent language over any telephone or citizens band radio.
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