Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire
315 U.S. 568 (1942)

  • Chaplinski was on a street corner yelling at people and calling them sinners and fascists. Eventually a mob formed and started a riot.
  • Chaplinski was arrested and charged with breach of the peace under a New Hampshire law that made it illegal to call people names.
  • Chaplinski was convicted of breach of the peace. He appealed.
    • Chaplinski argued that the New Hampshire law was unconstitutional since it infringed on his 1st Amendment right to free speech.
  • The US Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Chaplinski’s statements were fighting words (words designed to incite violence against the speaker).
    • The Court found that freedom of speech is not absolute, and that certain forms of speech (like fighting words, commercial advertising, or obscenities) do not convey ideas and are therefore not covered by the 1st Amendment.
      • This is known as the two-tier theory because it divides speech into two tiers of constitutional protection.