A 22-year-old Austrian man who made headlines in June of last year after he was fined €500 euros (~$600) for farting on a police officer argued in court that his fart actually falls under freedom of expression, Austrian daily newspaper Der Standard reported last week.
In a decision released by the administrative court in Vienna, the court lays out some much needed detail in regards to the alleged events that transpired on that fateful day, meaning that we as readers can look at the facts and come to our own conclusions about whether the fart was indeed protected speech.
The ordeal began on June 5, 2020, when the farting man—named “Mr. AB” in the document—was hanging out with a friends at an unnamed park when a group of police officers approached them during a routine identity check.
That’s when things got windy.
“When he released the intestinal gas, the complainant was sitting on a park bench,” the document reads. “He then lifted his buttocks and tensed up a little before letting the intestinal gas escape.”
“The complainant’s friends laughed at the intestinal gas and witness F made a joke,” the document continues. “Due to the resulting entertainment from the intestinal gas, the defendant grinned at the officers.”
In court, the man argued that the fart was not intentional and that, even if it was intentional, it would still fall under his fundamental right for freedom of expression.
Unfortunately for the wind-breaker, the judge didn’t buy his argument.
In a detailed legal assessment of whether farting is indeed a protected form of expression, the judge argues while farts and burps can cause “social inappropriateness” they do not contain “communicative content,” and even if they did, it would still be considered “a form of expression that transcends the boundaries decency.”
The judge did show some sympathy for the man though, reducing his fine from €500 euros to €100, citing his financial situation and the fact that he had no criminal record.
However, speaking to local Viennese newspaper Kurier, Matej Zenz, the man’s lawyer, made clear that this is a hill his client is willing to die on, and that they would be appealing the decision to the country’s constitutional court.
“It’s a matter of principle for us,” the Zenz said, “because it’s petty to get a punishment for a fart.”
vice.com, 14 April 2021