Suiter__SupCt - IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO...

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1 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO Docket No. 28115 STATE OF IDAHO, ) ) Boise, September 2002 Term Plaintiff-Respondent, ) ) 2002 Opinion No. 126 v. ) ) Filed: October 28, 2002 PATRICK SHELDON SUITER, ) ) Frederick C. Lyon, Clerk Defendant-Appellant. ) ) Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Stephen W. Drescher, District Judge. Suiter’s conviction is vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings. Thomas A. Sullivan argued. Nevin, Herzfeld, Benjamin & McKay, L.L.P., Boise, for amicus. Dennis A. Benjamin argued. Hon. Alan G. Lance, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Lori A. Fleming argued. ________________________________________________ ON REVIEW KIDWELL, Justice. Suiter was convicted of disturbing the peace following a jury trial. Suiter appeals his conviction on the grounds that his conviction violates his freedom of speech pursuant to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND On April 3, 1998, Suiter went to the Canyon County Courthouse and spoke to an officer in the records division about a fraudulent check case in which one of Suiter's friends was the victim. Suiter explained that he was acting at his friend's request and as his agent. The detective responded that without some sort of verification from the crime victim, Suiter was unauthorized to act on the
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2 victim's behalf, and the detective could not take a complaint or assist Suiter in an investigation of the alleged check fraud. Suiter became frustrated with the officer's responses to his inquiries. As the conversation progressed, Suiter became agitated and critical of the sheriff's office. The detective told Suiter that he was not going to listen to criticism. Subsequently, the detective asked Suiter to calm down. At that point, Suiter said "Hey, fuck off," (Suiter’s statement or Suiter’s speech) and turned to leave. Suiter was then stopped by other officers and cited for disturbing the peace. Those who heard the profanity included another sheriff's deputy, two clerks in the records division of the sheriff's office, and two civilian bystanders. The civilians were a woman (Villireal) and her nineteen-year-old daughter. The woman testified that she was not angered by what she heard but was surprised to hear such language in the courthouse. She said that Suiter’s language didn't really bother her. The daughter was also surprised, but not agitated, by hearing the "f-word" in the courthouse. Personnel of the sheriff's office who overheard the conversation said Suiter's agitated profanity disrupted their work or disrupted their peace and quiet. The witnesses described Suiter's voice as “loud,” “not combative,” “fairly loud,” “not real loud,” “seemed to raise a little bit,” or it “sounded like he was upset” when he uttered the vulgarity; no one characterized it as yelling,
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Suiter__SupCt - IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF IDAHO...

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