Virginia delegate proposes bill to end law against public swearing

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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — Right now, it is illegal in Virginia to swear in public. But one lawmaker has a plan to bring that rule to an end.

File image of Virginia's capitol building from the opening of the General Assembly in 2016

Virginia State Delegate Michael Webert (R-District 18) has proposed a bill for the 2018 session of the General Assembly that would eliminate the crime of profanely swearing or cursing in public.

That crime, § 18.2-388 of the Virginia Code, states that "if any person profanely curses or swears or is intoxicated in public, whether such intoxication results from alcohol, narcotic drug or other intoxicant or drug of whatever nature, he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor."

That means offenders can receive a fine of up to $250.

Webert, who has proposed a similar bill for three years in a row, says the existing law is "antiquated."

"It's been found to be unconstitutional, and we still haven't removed it," he said.

He told WUSA9 that the current law could give good citizens criminal records and even just defining what is profane can be difficult to determine.

"Society is constantly changing along with what is profane or not," he said.

In the past, he thinks some lawmakers may have feared supporting the bill because it might look they promoted indecency, but he's confident there will bipartisan support in Richmond this coming year.

You can find the existing law on the books here and the proposed bill here.

The bill does not address a separate part of the Virginia Code, which outlaws the use of obscene or indecent language over any telephone or citizens band radio.