Press Club

State Repeals Cussing Law, But Ordinance Remains on the Books in Arlington

On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he had signed HB 1071 into law, repealing a law on the books since 1792 that prohibits profane swearing in public.

The repeal will take effect July 1, after which it will no longer be a misdemeanor to curse up a storm while out and about in the Commonwealth. Well, except in Arlington.

Arlington County still has its own ordinance on the books, prohibiting public intoxication and profanity.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to be intoxicated or to profanely curse or swear in any public place in the County,” the ordinance says. “Any person convicted of such public intoxication or profanity shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

The good news is that even if you are somehow arrested for profanity, you probably won’t be prosecuted.

“I don’t see prosecuting the use of profanity on its own as a reasonable or efficient use of resources, so no,” said new Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, when asked by ARLnow whether she would prosecute someone just for cursing.

Nonetheless, the ordinance remains. Prior to the governor signing HB 1071, we asked whether Arlington officials had any plans to repeal the county’s cussing prohibition.

“The County routinely reviews its ordinances whenever a new state law may impact them,” said county spokeswoman Mary Curtius.

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