Alabama Driver, Police Officer, Traffic Stop, Jail

Alabama Driver Must Apologize To Officer For Saying ‘Get Your Ass Out of The Way’ Or Go To Jail 

Legal experts think jail time doesn't fit the crime regardless of the drivers' previous traffic offenses.

Court officials in Ozark, Alabama, are ordering a Black man to apologize to an officer who he told “get your ass out of the way,” or face jail time

Ozark Municipal Court Judge Nicholas Bull is ordering Reginald Burks, 39, to write the officer an apology letter or sit in jail for 10 to 30 days if he decides otherwise. The aircraft mechanic says he will go to jail. “What am I going to do? I’m going to jail,” Burks said. 

“I ain’t writing no letter. I can’t do it. I don’t see where it’s legal for him to do that.”

Burks was pulled over for speeding by a police officer on December 13, 2023, while taking his kids to school. The unidentified officer told the father that his radar gun was broken, so he estimated the speed by using cruise control. Not falling for it, Burks said the officer was “full of crap because there’s no way that he clocked my speed by cruise control.” That’s when things went left. 

The officer gave Burks the ticket and then stood in front of his car, prompting him to back up and go around the officer. “I said, ‘Get your ass out of the way so I can take my kids to school,’” Burks said. 

“My daughter’s like, ‘Daddy, you cursed.’ And I said, ‘I’m sorry boo.’”

Initially, Burks was just given a speeding ticket and did not face any other charges, such as disorderly conduct. He said thanks to advice from friends and family who serve as police officers telling him not to challenge the ticket, he went to court prepared to plead guilty and pay the fine of $183, according to WBRC. But when he found out the judge wanted him to write an apology, it didn’t sit well with him. “The judge told me the way I spoke to the officer is the reason he is doing the things he is doing,” Burks said.

The driver is planning on suing but admits finding a lawyer is difficult due to some having existing cases going before Judge Bull.

Legal experts feel the case raises questions about judicial power. Professor of criminal law Jenny Carroll says judges have done things like tell defendants not to contact victims or visit businesses. Others have gone further, including one Texas judge who controversially ordered sex offenders to post signs in their front yards regarding their convictions. 

However, in Burks’ case, Carroll thinks jail time doesn’t fit the crime, regardless of the previous traffic offenses, according to a court document review.  “I think it is one of those judicial orders that is sufficiently questionable that we ought to say, is it really proportional to give a 30-day sentence if he won’t say he’s sorry?” Carroll said.

“That’s a long time for what he allegedly said. And my guess is, we could stop most adults on the street, and they would admit that in a moment of frustration, he said something that may be regrettable but doesn’t deserve a 30-day sentence.”

Burks, who admitted to using an expletive towards the officer, doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. While Alabama law prohibits cursing in public, Carroll thinks that’s the charge he should have been charged with, if Bull intended to punish him for his speech. “If I did something to offend him or bodily harm him in any way, I would apologize,” Burks said. 

“But I didn’t do anything to this officer besides curse. And there’s no law saying that I can’t curse or speak my mind.”

He is scheduled to go back to court to learn his fate on June 4 for a hearing.