Yesterday, I wrote a post considering the threats made directly by a Texas sheriff (and indirectly by a prosecutor) to bring disorderly conduct charges over a truck owner with a sign on the rear window of the truck reading, "F*** Trump And F*** You For Voting For Him." My conclusion was that to charge the truck owner with a crime over that sign would be patently unconstitutional, and the sheriff's department would be buying itself a 1983 lawsuit that is a sure-fire winner for the truck owner.
Well, guess what? The truck owner got arrested yesterday. But here's the twist: the truck owner had an outstanding warrant for a fraud-based crime that has been pending since August. So, to re-purpose the metaphor I used in my previous post, who scored the "own goal" now?
Another local news article on this has some reporting and quotes from law enforcement and the prosecutor to the effect that the sheriff did not want to charge the truck owner with a crime, but wanted to talk to her about modifying the sign. The prosecutor, for his part, says that the sign was not a crime. I'm not saying this is what happened here, but was this all a ruse by the police to effectuate the arrest of the woman who owns the truck? It seems unlikely, but let's suppose it was. Is this wrong? No. Police can engage in ruses of this sort in this context. This should be obvious - when police go "undercover," they are concealing their identity, pretending to be someone they are not. There are places where the police must be totally honest and tell the unvarnished truth (the witness stand being one such place), but in areas of of developing their investigation and apprehending suspects, being dishonest or deceptive is completely permissible.
What about the husband's claim that this arrest is really all about the Trump sign? Nope, that's not going anywhere, either. The warrant establishes that there is probable cause for the arrest, and even if it gave law enforcement some higher degree of satisfaction to arrest this woman because of that sign, it doesn't matter. The arrest is lawful. Furthermore, trying to base a 1983 claim on this arrest would be an exercise in futility. To put it another way, the mere fact that you are engaged in protected speech that offends does not give you ... wait for it ... a "get out of jail free" card. (Thank you..... Thank you.... I'll be here all week, and don't forget to tip your wait staff).
My point yesterday that charging this woman with disorderly conduct on the basis of the anti-Trump sign on her car would be unconstitutional still stands. Obviously, there were additional facts, and there is an independent basis for her arrest. A word to the wise - if you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, perhaps don't draw attention to yourself in this manner, no matter how strong your feelings about the president.