A Texas sheriff threatened to criminally charge a driver with an anti-Trump sticker on the back of their pickup truck.
The sticker reads, “F*ck Trump and f*ck you for voting for him.”
The photo apparently ired Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, who posted the image to Facebook and said he had gotten “numerous calls regarding the offensive display.”
“If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you. Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it,” Nehls wrote on Facebook, along with a picture of the section of Texas law that the prosecutor could allegedly charge the driver with.
Texas law defines disorderly conduct as “abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language in a public place, and the language by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of peace.” It also bans “an offensive gesture or display in a public place” that could incite breach of peace.
According to SFGate, Nehls later said that “many families have called that have seen that truck on our county roadways and are very offended by the language on the truck. I think they’re walking a fine line.”
SFGate reports that the woman who identified herself as the driver, Karen Fonseca, actually used to work for Nehls at the county jail.
She told the site that the truck is owned by her husband but she frequently uses it. She explained that she understands why the sticker draws such strong reactions. She added the police officers have pulled her over but could not come up with actual cause for a ticket.
“It’s not to cause hate or animosity,” Fonseca said. “It’s just our freedom of speech, and we’re exercising it.”
The Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union agrees, and lashed out at the Republican sheriff contemplating a run for Congress.
“Constitutional Law 101: You can’t ban speech just because it has ‘f@ck’ in it,” the ACLU said, SFGate reports. “Hey truck owner, feel free to contact the ACLU of Texas.”
District Attorney John Healey also disagreed that the woman could be charged.
“I did not believe it was a prosecutable case based on the definition of disorderly conduct,” Healey said, according to SFGate.
After coming under severe backlash online, Nehls held a press conference to attempt to diffuse the situation he had escalated.
“We have not threatened anybody with arrest. We have not written any citations,” Nehls said, the Houston Chronicle reports. “But I think now it would be a good time to have meaningful dialogue with that person and express the concerns out there regarding the language on the truck.”
He claimed that he was considering the driver’s safety in his reaction.
“I don’t want to see anything happen to anyone,” Nehls said. “With people’s … mindset today, that’s the last thing we need, a breach of the peace.”