Florida woman files civil rights suit over profane bumper sticker

Monday, November 29, 1999

A Florida woman charged with violating a state law prohibiting obscene bumper
stickers has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over the incident.

Laura Barron was cited in September for violating the bumper sticker law
after a state trooper stopped her for an unrelated traffic offense and noticed
her sticker stating “F—, you, you f—-ing f—.”

Prosecutors dismissed the charges against Barron earlier this month before a
court hearing.

In her lawsuit filed Nov. 24, Barron alleges that the criminal charges filed
against her have caused a “chilling effect on free expression.” Her lawsuit
alleges that she “is in fear that her continued exercise of her free-speech
rights by displaying the bumper sticker may result in future criminal charges
and expenses associated with criminal defense.”

“My client’s suffered a clear violation of her First Amendment rights,”
Barron’s attorney, Lawrence Walters, said, “There is no question that the words on her bumper sticker are constitutionally protected speech.”

Barron is asking a federal district court in Orlando to declare the statute
unconstitutional and to permanently prevent law enforcement officials from
enforcing it. She also is seeking damages against the state highway patrol and
the state trooper who cited her.

According to her lawsuit, a “reasonable law enforcement officer … would have
known that the words contained on Plaintiff Barron’s bumper sticker are
constitutionally protected and not subject to criminal charges.”

Barron had said she placed the profane alliterative message on her car as a
form of protest against traffic conditions and “against tailgaters.”

Walters’ motion to dismiss the charges against Barron argued that the state
law prohibiting obscene bumper stickers was unconstitutional. He said that
Barron’s message could not be considered legally obscene because it did not
communicate a sexual or erotic message.

The state attorney general’s office could not be reached for