State v. ParnoffAnnotate this Case
Defendant’s statement to two water company employees who had entered his property pursuant to an easement to service a fire hydrant was not “fighting words,” and therefore, the First Amendment forbids the imposition of criminal sanctions.
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of disorderly conduct in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-182(a)(1). The conviction arose from Defendant’s statement to the water company employees that, if they did not leave his property, he would retrieve a gun and shoot them. The Appellate Court reversed, concluding that, although inappropriate, Defendant’s words were not likely to provoke an immediate and violent reaction from the water company employees, and therefore, Defendant’s speech did not amount to fighting words. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, consistent with the First Amendment, Defendant’s statements did not constitute fighting words.