Court Order! Apologize for “Get Your Ass Out of the Way” or Spend 30 Days Behind Bars

Court Order! Apologize for “Get Your Ass Out of the Way” or Spend 30 Days Behind Bars

An Alabama man who shouted at a police officer, “Get your ass out of the way” after being ticketed during a traffic check last year says he has been ordered by a judge to either apologize to the officer or face up to 30 days in jail.

But Reginald Burks says he is willing to give up his freedom because he believes his First and Eighth Amendment rights have been infringed. He claims that his freedom of speech has been violated and that he is suffering a harsh and unusual punishment. While Alabama law prohibits the use of “abusive or obscene language” in public, Burks has not been charged with disorderly conduct and does not feel the term “ass” is prohibited under the law. “It’s not a curse word,” Burks, 39, stated in an interview Monday. “It’s in the Bible.”

Burks was stopped by a police officer on December 13 at 7:38 a.m. in the small town of Ozark, southeast Alabama, while driving his son and daughter to school. Burks, who lives in Skipperville, approximately ten miles from Ozark, said he left work around 4 a.m., slept for about two hours, and then woke up to get his two children, ages 14 and eight, ready for school.

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Burks claimed that the officer who pulled him over told him that he had been traveling faster than the 25 mph speed limit without providing specifics. Burks didn’t believe that, so he said he asked the officer how fast he had been driving. He stated that the officer informed him that his radar gun was broken, so he utilized his vehicle’s cruise control to estimate Burks’ speed. Burks stated that he told the police that he did not believe that was a credible approach and advised him to simply write him a ticket. After writing the ticket, the officer remained in front of Burks’ car, he stated.

“He was standing there and wouldn’t move,” Burks claimed. “I had asked him politely at least twice.” “I said, ‘Sir, step back, get out of the way,'” Burks explained. “He said, ‘You can go.'” “Go around.

Burks stated that he replied, “Get your ass out of the way so I can take my kids to school.” That’s why you’re underpaid; you act foolish.” Burks drove away and apologized to his daughter for the discussion.

The Ozark Police Department did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

Burks came in court this month, ready to plead guilty, pay the money, and put the incident behind him. However, after he paid the punishment, which totaled $211.12, including a $20 charge, as well as service and court fees, Ozark Municipal Court Judge Nicholas Bull instructed him to write an apology to the officer for allegedly cursing at him, according to a copy of the order obtained by NBC News.

Burks declined. If he does not submit the letter at his next court appearance on June 4, he and his lawyers say he would face up to 30 days in jail.

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“My client is being punished for protected speech that has nothing to do with the traffic situation, which to me is just good ol’ boy Alabama,” the attorney, David Harrison, stated on Monday. “And what I mean by that is that this system is not equal for African Americans and white people.”

“This man is being convicted for something they couldn’t charge him with and win at trial,” Harrison went on. “The crime here is not apologizing, and that is my concern. It is not constitutionally sound. It’s perhaps the worst decision I’ve seen in 33 years of practicing law.”

The police officer, judge, and Harrison are all white. Bull, the judge, did not respond quickly to demands for comment.

Jenny Carroll, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, agrees with Burks that the term ass is not an obscenity, at least not according to the Federal Communications Commission’s definition.

Carroll stated that judges have discretion in sentencing and can impose conditions on a defendant, such as requiring an apology. It is not rare for a judge to punish a defendant for a lack of regret or apology. But, she noted, the judge’s order raises the question of whether the punishment is appropriate for the crime.

“The charged offense was the speeding, not anything to do with the profanity,” Carroll stated. “So not only is the judge punishing a crime for which the guy has not been accused, but I believe you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say 30 days in jail is a fair sentence for someone who uttered the word ass in frustration. Which, based on the circumstances of this case, I believe is what occurred.

And what distinguishes this instance from others, she claims, is the “disproportionate punishment.” The judge is imposing the punishment of failing to show remorse. “And that I think, makes it unusual,” she continued. “And I think raises some questions about proportionality.”

Burks stated that he is contesting the judgment not only because he and his counsel believe it is unconstitutional, but also because he is concerned that it would set a negative precedent and result in other drivers, particularly those of color, being wrongly punished.

“I think I deserve an apology and my kids deserve an apology before he does,” Burks stated. “Because they were tardy in school.

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