Judge: Barking not protected speech

July 24, 2011 at 11:57 PM
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MASON, Ohio, July 24 (UPI) -- A judge has ruled that barking and hissing are not protected by the First Amendment.

Mason, Ohio, Judge Andrew Batsche ruled Friday that when Ryan Stephens barked and hissed at a police dog in April, he was not protected by a constitutional right, The Cincinnati Inquirer reported.

Stephens was petitioning for the dismissal of a charge that he had abused a police dog, claiming the law violates free speech and is too vague.

Jim Hardin, Stephens' lawyer, argued that his client had a First Amendment right to bark at the dog, making reference to an Athens, Ohio, case in which a defendant had similar charges dropped.

However, in the Athens case, the defendant was more than 30 feet away from the police dog when he barked at it, whereas Stephens was only a few inches away from the dog, Timber, who was in a police cruiser at the time.

"Even if there was a communicative value to the defendant's barking and hissing, it is clear that this ordinance is directed toward prohibited conduct and impairment of a First Amendment right is incidental," Batsche wrote.

Stephens claimed "the dog started it," police reports said.

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