Ohio Diary #8: First Amendment Case In Cincinnati For Man Who ‘Barked’ At Dog

Can Prosecutor Bethany Bennett prove that barking at a police dog constitutes “fighting words?”  She sure enough is going to try,.  She believes she can win using that argument to persuade a judge from dismissing a charge against Ryan Stephens on free speech grounds.

Stephens, 25, faces up to 60 days in jail if convicted on the charge of barking at the police dog.  His lawyer is going to argue that he is entitled to free speech, and that his actions are protected by the First Amendment.

Prosecutor Bennett said:

The defendant’s words and actions were clearly intended to, and had the direct result of, causing great distress to the trained police dog.

According to the First Amendment, fighting words, are an exception to the free speech rights because the expressions are likely to “a clear and present danger” and could incite someone to into breaking the law.  It begs the obvious question:  How could the police dog, in a police car, break the law?

She goes on to explain: That it was a clear and present danger to the police dog who was trying vehemently  to exit the car, and was a danger to anyone trying to enter the police car, and a danger to anyone outside the car if the door or window had been opened.  Interesting.  The police officer testified that the window was open.  The police dog made no attempt to break the law. He stayed inside his vehicle.

The police officer, Brad Walker said his dog, Timber, was known to bark for no apparent reason, sometimes when people got near the cruiser. “It’s a dog.  He barks when he wants to.”  That was his testimony Thursday.

You can only wonder what this woman must be thinking.  Does she see it as a metaphor for the way women are treated.  Second-class, non-human entities.  Enough with taking away women’s rights.  We’ve had Weiner, Vitter and Gingrich so why not a dog.  She would be better to go after the real dogs, rapists, and take away not just their first amendment rights, but all their rights.  Lock them away.  Do it before raping becomes legal, as so many states are trying to do.  Besides, the police dog could not possibly break the law without his handlers help.  He can’t open doors or roll down the windows. She is a new prosecutor trying to make a name for herself.  I am not sure that she is going to like what they will call her.  Taxpayers money used to prosecute a man for barking like a dog at a dog.  Good for the body politic.

I for one find this ludicrous.  My dog and I bark at each other all the time when we play.  He has yet to become a danger to anyone.  He has not, as of yet, broken the law.  Does the police dog or my dog not have first amendment rights?  Any dog for that matter, I mean the four-legged kind.  Why not charge the dog?  He did not have to bark back.

Consider this a warning:  If in Cincinnati or Mason, Ohio don’t bark like a dog.  You could lose your first amendment rights.

Had Stephens barked and hissed at the Police Office, Mr. Walker, it would not have been considered criminal conduct.

It seems that dogs have more rights than people.

We will find out in July, when Judge Andrew Batsche is expected to issue a ruling.



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