A man caught speeding through a school zone and then arrested for cursing out a Boulder County deputy will soon be $20,000 richer.
Bob McIntosh, 51, won a settlement from the county, arguing that he was arrested without probable cause and in violation of his free speech rights, his attorney said Wednesday.
On Oct. 1, McIntosh was stopped in Superior by Deputy Sheriff Timothy Lynch after a radar gun showed he hit 41 mph racing through a 20 mph school zone with a flashing sign. It was 2:30 p.m, when school was letting out.
The deputy said he turned on his flashing lights to pull over McIntosh, but had to hit the siren because "the driver was still talking on his cell phone and oblivious that I was behind him."
"When McIntosh was presented with the ticket he became profane and verbally abusive," Lynch wrote in his report. "At first he tried staring me down then stated with a spiteful look that a warning would have been sufficient."
"I responded by saying, 'Not at 41 mph in a 20 mph school zone,'" the deputy replied.
"McIntosh said the speed is usually 35 and that I was being a 'f------ ass and that 'You know it,'" the deputy wrote in his report. "(McIntosh) then stated he would see me in f------ court.
"I replied that if he continued his abusive language I would arrest him," the deputy noted in his report. "McIntosh then signed the summons, again trying to stare me down. He was given his documents then loudly yelled, Screw you.
"McIntosh was enraged," the deputy wrote.
The driver was arrested for disobeying a police officer and taken to jail, where he was booked and released, the report said.
Reached at home Wednesday, McIntosh said he had no comment.
His attorney, David Lane, issued a statement, saying: "In paying $20,000, Boulder County is implicitly recognizing that the United States Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers."
"Speech is often provocative and challenging, but it is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest," Lane added.
In a statement, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said, "The (traffic) stop did not go well. Mr. McIntosh was verbally abusive, vulgar and uncooperative."
Yet, Pelle noted that no use of force was involved in the arrest and McIntosh's trip to jail took about three hours.
McIntosh later pleaded guilty to the speeding violation, and the disobeying a police officer charge was dropped, the sheriff said.
"Our County Attorneys Office reviewed the facts of the case and felt there was some exposure, because courts have ruled that while not all speech is protected, police officers are expected to take a higher level of verbal abuse than would be expected from a member of the general public," the sheriff said. "The decision was made to settle the case quickly and as inexpensively as possible, as litigation and attorneys fees could become very expensive."
The sheriff said his office and county attorneys have "taken full advantage of the situation to properly educate the deputy involved and all of our personnel on the appropriate constitutional limitations on free speech as they apply to peace officers."
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