Woman Must Wear 'Idiot' Sign for Driving on Sidewalk: Court - Legally Weird
Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Woman Must Wear 'Idiot' Sign for Driving on Sidewalk: Court

For an hour on Tuesday and Wednesday, Shena Hardin wore a sign with the word "Idiot" around her neck, as part of a court-ordered punishment.

Why? Because Hardin was impatient while a school bus dropped off some children. Instead of waiting behind the bus while it was stopped, she drove her car around the bus -- by way of the sidewalk, Cleveland's WEWS-TV reports.

The driver of the bus was a quick thinker and captured the incident on video. That allowed police to find Hardin and give her a citation.

As part of her punishment, Hardin was forced to pay $250 in fees and had her license suspended for 30 days. But the judge imposed an extra punishment so that people would know what kind of person drives on the sidewalk.

It may have gone easier for Hardin if she'd only pulled the sidewalk routine once. But the bus driver had two different shots of her off-roading to avoid the school bus:

To alert other drivers, Hardin was required to wear a sign around her neck that says "Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus." She wore it at the intersection where the incident occurred between 7:45 and 8:45 a.m. for two days straight, according to USA Today.

The fine and license suspension are common punishments for driving citations, but the sign wearing is a little unorthodox. That could be a problem later on.

Under our justice system, punishments are meant to be proportional to the crime; the Eighth Amendment specifically bars "cruel and unusual" punishments. The question then is whether this punishment is constitutional.

There's no universal standard for "cruel and unusual," but courts generally find that inhumane or degrading punishments violate the Constitution.

Forcing Hardin to wear a sign around her neck is arguably far from inhumane, and while it may be slightly embarrassing, it doesn't necessarily fall within the meaning of "degrading" either.

Things may have been different if Hardin had been forced to wear a sign that specifically called her an idiot or was personally insulting. But the message, while aimed at Hardin's behavior, didn't make any personal attacks.

It doesn't appear that Hardin is going to challenge her public shaming. At least she's spreading the message that sidewalks are for walking, not driving.

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