Cars, Constitutional Law, Free Speech, Jury Duty, Rudeness

Is A Ban on ‘Truck Nuts’ Unconstitutional?

I love to talk about truck nuts, probably for the same reason that racists love to talk about crime rates in the ghetto. Regardless of why, I just can’t get enough of the phenomenon of people affixing plastic testicles to their motor vehicles.

Obviously, I think people should be free to do pretty much whatever they want when it comes to decorating their vehicles. So I find the truck nuts story circulating around the blogosphere very disturbing. Apparently, a South Carolina woman was given a $445 ticket for her truck’s nuts. Her story is making news, because she’s secured a jury trial to protest the ticket.

So, for those playing along at home, South Carolina will defend to the death your right to display the Confederate Flag, the symbol of a regime committed to slavery and racial oppression, but plastic testicles is a bridge too far.

Yes, like most obscenity cases, this one is turgid with hypocrisy….

The woman’s name is Virginia Tice. According to WCSC News-Charleston, Tice did it because she wanted to make a statement. The ABA Journal has this wonderful quote from her lawyer:

“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,” attorney Scott Bischoff of the Savage firm tells the newspaper, explaining that he plans to pursue a First Amendment defense.

Aww, she’s just a girl who needed some nuts on her truck.

But let’s go back to the WCSC report. I think we need a better understanding of relevant sides of the truck nuts debate:

“To me it’s just a personal expression,” says John Caddell. “My truck’s got power.”

Caddell is another proud owner of the conversation starters. He says whether it’s good or bad, his pair of chrome truck ornaments is driving a heated debate….

“Genitalia is offensive,” says [Bonneau Chief of Police Franco Fuda]. “As a law enforcement officer, I’ll advise that person if it warrants a citation I’ll issue a citation. As a father, I wouldn’t want my daughter looking at it.”

Genitalia are offensive? Really? Does Chief Fuda wear a bathing suit when he showers? Or does he just sit in the bath, looking at his junk, thinking, “This is so disgusting and offensive, I wish I could cut these obscene, unholy genitals right off my body”? As for his daughter, I mean, if the worst thing your little girl is exposed to in this day and age is plastic or chrome nuts, then I think she’s pretty well sheltered. She’s gonna have one hell of an adjustment period when she gets to college, but don’t worry, I’m sure there will be a lot of nice Carolina boys happy to show Miss Fuda some nuts that cannot easily be mounted on the back of a car.

Oh, but I didn’t forget the “my truck’s got power” guy. Do affixing nuts to things automatically make those things “more powerful” (whatever that means)? For the lulz, I’d like to see this logic extended further: I want to see nuts on boats, nuts on houses, and of course I want to see the ultimate in genital compensatory logic: gun nutz.

Of course the truck nuts case raises larger constitutional issues. Here is South Carolina’s indecency law, as reprinted on the Volokh Conspiracy:

A sticker, decal, emblem, or device is indecent when:

(1) 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; and

(2) taken as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

And here’s the problem with that law, according to Professor Eugene Volokh:

The trouble for the government, though, is that precisely because this is broader than the obscenity test, it punishes speech that is constitutionally protected (vulgarity that has no sexually arousing component, and is thus neither obscene nor even obscene-as-to-minors). The law is thus unconstitutionally overbroad, and thus facially invalid. A rather broader ban on bumper stickers containing “profane or lewd words describing sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body” was struck down in 1991 by the Georgia Supreme Court. But even this narrower ban is pretty clearly unconstitutional.

And I would quibble with the suggestion that truck nuts contribute nothing of “scientific value.” Young girls all across South Carolina need to learn the difference between a man’s testicles versus a plastic or chrome decoration. Lesson 1: plastic nuts can be kicked around on the underside of a moving vehicle; real nuts cannot. It also seems to me that the users of truck nuts need to learn the scientifically important lesson that giving something a scrotum doesn’t mean you’re giving it “more power”; it just means you’re giving it nuts.

Maybe after everybody see that trucks, imbued with nuts, cannot suddenly tow more, or sexually reproduce additional trucks, or fly, then the learning can begin.

Jury Trial Planned re $445 Obscenity Ticket Issued Over Plastic ‘Truck Nuts’ [ABA Journal]
Woman gets jury trial for displaying plastic testicles on truck [WCSC-TV]
Woman Being Prosecuted for Displaying Plastic Testicles on Her Car [The Volokh Conspiracy]

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