Cohen v. California
Appellant was convicted of violating that part of Cal. Penal Code § 415 which prohibits "maliciously and willfully disturb(ing) the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person...by...offensive conduct," for wearing a jacket bearing the words "Fuck the Draft" in a corridor of the Los Angeles Courthouse. The Court of Appeal held that "offensive conduct" means "behavior which has a tendency to provoke others to acts of violence or to in turn disturb the peace," and affirmed the conviction.
Held: Absent a more particularized and compelling reason for its actions, the State may not, consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments, make the simple public display of this single four-letter expletive a criminal offense. Pp. 22-26.
1 Cal.App.3d 94, 81 Cal.Rptr. 503, reversed.
Melville B. Nimmer, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellant.
Michael T. Sauer, Los Angeles, Cal., for appellee.
Mr. Justice HARLAN delivered the opinion of the Court.