BONNEAU, S.C.—As one might expect in Jim DeMint/Lindsay Graham country, there's a law that says, "A sticker, decal, emblem, or device is indecent when taken as a whole, it describes, in a patently offensive way, as determined by contemporary community standards, sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body."
Call it a "Miller test for Truck Nutz."
You know Truck Nutz, which its manufacturer describes as "the ultimate truck accessory," or similar items sold under names such as Bulls Balls: Large fake testicles that people hang from the trailer hitch of their pick-up, SUV or whatever. Stephen Colbert (pictured) even featured them on his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, as part of his "Threatdown" segment.
But little did 65-year-old Virginia Tice realize what she was getting herself into when, on July 5, she stopped off at a local gas station with the low-slung adornment—a big red one!—hanging from the back of her Ford 150. But once she was spotted by eagle-eyed Police Chief Franco Fuda, who pulled up beside her and asked her to remove the accoutrement, which she refused to do, of course he wrote her a $445 ticket for violating the archaic "obscene device" law.
Tice, of course, was pissed, and vowed to demand a jury trial rather than pay the ticket—but Fuda beat her to it, demanding one himself—a situation which Tice's attorney, Scott Bischoff, who's taking the case pro bono, said was unprecedented in his experience.
"I had never heard of that," Bischoff told the Charleston Post and Courier. "She's such a sweet lady and she just says, 'I don't want to pay the fine.' We'll let a jury decide whether this is really criminal behavior. I don't want to take away from the importance of free speech, but it's really comical."
But Fuda's standing his ground, claiming it's not a speech issue.
"I don't know what they would be trying to express," he told a reporter for Reuters News Service. "I went to [a] few websites that said, excuse the expression, 'Show your nuts'; I didn't see anywhere it said, 'Support your local proctologist or farmer'."
A poll on the Post and Courier's website asked its readers whether the fake balls are obscene, and out of 159 responses, 91 (57%) said they were. It's not clear how many were laughing so hard they couldn't click on a response.
David Hudson, of the First Amendment Law Center, opined that the law is "unconstitutionally vague and unconstitutionally broad, and it violates the First Amendment," adding that according to the U.S. Supreme Court, "the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."
In any case, Tice is scheduled to have her case heard sometime in September.