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Say and pay - cursing in Middleborough, Massachusetts, could cost you $20

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Saying the wrong thing in Middleborough Massachusetts could cost you 20 bucks, according to a new ordinance adopted by the town’s residents last week.

The measure was approved by a 183 – 50 vote.

The wrong thing to say is essentially anything profane. Exactly what words are considered profane is yet unclear.

Speaking to the press on behalf of the local police department which pushed for passage of the law, Sergeant Benjamin Mackiewicz said:

“It isn’t about somebody who slams their fingers in a car door. This is somebody addressing an individual and using language that is inappropriate. And I think we all know, in our minds, what is inappropriate.’’

Mackiewicz also held that police would only issue summonses when other types of objectionable behavior are involved.

Massachusetts State law does give local police departments the power to arrest any person who “addresses another person with profane or obscene language” in public places.

Observers say that the new ordinance is really a response to foul-mouthed teens who swear loudly in many of the town’s public venues.

While the “bad-word fine” has made news across the state and around the nation, it in fact is a decriminalization act.  Before last week, cursing in public was actually a criminal offence in Middleborough. However, police never enforced that law because it was tactically impractical to arrest people for simply saying a four letter word.

Making swearing a civil violation, payable by a fine, will allow cops to enforce the ban more practically; something police insist they will now do with discretion - constitutional issues aside.

What has been under reported is that Middleborough’s new ordinance also decriminalizes public drinking, marijuana use, most forms of disorderly conduct, and dumping snow on a roadway. These offences will now also be handled with civil fines instead of a criminal arrest.

So let me see. First, a couple of beers in the park – issue fine $20. Then a few tokes from the bong – there’s another $20. Mild intoxication leads to a little bad conduct with some passers by; well that’ll be $20. Frustration over all these fines leads one to throw a snowball in the street, right? There goes 20 more. So aggravated about all these tickets the swearing out loud begins. Oh yeah, cough up another 20.

Come on - all those fines just for enjoying a day of fun in the park?  Hey…it still beats a night in the slammer.

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