Arlington raises the penalty for potty mouths

ARLINGTON, Va. — The penalty for having a potty mouth has gone up in Arlington: A conviction for letting foul four-letter words fly can now result in a fine of up to $250, an increase from $100.

The Arlington County Board recently updated an ordinance dealing with public drunkenness and profanity, and raised the fines for the offenses.

Section 17-7 of the Arlington County Code, which previously made it unlawful for any person to be “drunk or profanely to curse or swear” in a public place, was also changed to replace “drunk” to “intoxicated,” so the law isn’t limited to someone under the influence of alcohol.

Some residents said they support the move if it will make the city more family-friendly.

“If they’re doing it [cursing] excessively and at a high volume, sure,” said Ashley Mosteller.

But “swearing is freedom of speech,” said Mike Conlon, of Ballston.

Under the ordinance, the Arlington County police reported making 664 arrests of people “appearing drunk” or using foul language last year.

Roberto Conception, of Clarendon, said he can understand an ordinance against public intoxication but doesn’t believe swearing should be a part of it. He said if people are afraid they will be fined for swearing, they will leave the county to go out to eat and drink.

Public conversations punctuated with profanities and public intoxication can result in a Class 4 misdemeanor conviction.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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