It’s a Crime to Use Profanity in Court?!?!?!

By Jedidiah McKeehan

Even as a lawyer, I find amusing the lists you come across on the internet occasionally that list funny and random laws. Who knew that it was illegal to shoot deer while riding a tractor in Nebraska (I just made this one up)?

I recently came across a Tennessee law that falls within that vein. Under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-9-107, “Any person who profanely swears or curses in the presence of any court of record commits a Class C misdemeanor.” Yikes!

So what does this mean exactly? A Class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of offense in Tennessee that still carries jail time with a maximum sentence possible of 30 days in jail.

The general sessions (some people call these courts small claims) courts and the municipal (traffic) courts are not considered courts of record. But the Circuit, Chancery, and Criminal Courts and every Court above those Courts are considered courts of record.

I have never seen or heard of anyone being charged with this crime, however, it did make me think if I could get an opposing party to curse on the witness stand, I could whip out this statute and ask that the Judge have the witness arrested. While it’s fun for me to think about trying to fluster a difficult witness in this way, the likelihood of anyone ever being charged with this crime are well below 1%. It is simply not on anyone’s radar as a crime worth prosecuting.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including divorce, custody, criminal, and personal injury. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

 

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