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The Colorado Court of Appeals had the has the unenviable task of examining an incident among middle school boys, bullying and Snapchat. The case of In re: R.C., Colorado Court of Appeals, November 17, 2016 reviewed a determination whether bad behavior amounted to the “fighting words” that was the basis for R.C.’s conviction.

In this case, one middle school boy drew a crude picture atop a photo of another middle school boy’s face, via the Snapchat app. R.C., the ‘artist’ in question, showed the picture around to some other kids, embarrassing the boy in the picture. As the school had a zero tolerance for bullying, the principal was called and R.C. was charged with disorderly conduct. Colorado law says, “A person commits disorderly conduct if he or she intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly: . . . [m]akes a coarse and obviously offensive utterance, gesture, or display in a public place and the utterance, gesture, or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” § 18-9-106(1)(a), C.R.S. 2016.

R.C. was convicted and appealed. The Court of Appeals had to determine whether the cartoon drawing on a photo was likely to incite a reasonable person—or even a reasonable middle schooler—to immediate physical violence. The court reviewed lengthy examinations of “fighting words” and whether the cartoon drawing role to the level of being sexually explicit, as well as the coarsening of speech nationwide. The Court of Appeals concluded the actions of R.C. did not rise to the level of “fighting words” and therefore the government did not prove one element of the offense. The conviction was reversed.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado

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