Legal Question in Civil Rights Law in Maryland

The police showed up at my house accusing my son of spray painting a negative remark about Obama under a bridge. They told me some parents could not be left up to disciplining a child for some things and asked me repeatedly if I personally like Obama or not. I told them I did not care for Obama's politics but by no means encouraged my son to vandalize the area under the bridge nor to make such statements. The police woman suggest my son was soft and lived in a cushy neighborhood and told him those where fighting words. and acted as if he would be pitted against tougher kids with differing politics. The police woman then asked my son if he was involved and when he was hesitant I instructed my son to answer and he confessed. I feel totally violated As if I cannot discipline my son or condone this behavior because I am conservative. My son was turned over to my care but is no being charged and being put into the juvenile system.

Asked on 8/01/12, 7:49 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Cedulie Laumann Arden Law Firm, LLC

It sounds as though you are dealing with two inter-related but distinct issues. First, vandalism is inappropriate and usually illegal no matter whether the message is positive or negative. Second, free speech (including criticism of elected officials and public policies) is Constitutionally protected, even if people in authority hold different views.

Law enforcement can properly investigate people who vandalize and have some rights to question / interrogate but they cannot legally penalize or harass citizens for exercising free speech (assuming it is exercised within proper boundaries). As far as free speech goes it is both inappropriate and possibly illegal to question a citizen's political persuasions. Such situations are extremely fact-specific and you are strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel

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Answered on 8/03/12, 8:10 am

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