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Giving Cops the Finger Is Protected Speech

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Usually when a cop cuts you a break by issuing a lesser violation after pulling you over for whatever it was that you were doing, most of us are in such shock that we're almost thankful for the ticket. Then there are those modern day heroes like Debra Cruise-Gulyas, who after getting one those "breaks," flipped the cop the bird while driving off.

Debra was then pulled over again, and that break vanished. She had been given a non-moving violation, despite being pulled over for speeding. But after extending her arm and then her middle finger in a way that would make even Stephanie's driving instructor proud, she got pulled over again, and got the speeding ticket she initially was saved from.

The Finger Is Protected Speech

As the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals explained, in fantastic fashion, giving cops the finger is protected speech. Sure, you can't obstruct them from doing their jobs, or act menacing towards them, but court after court has found that middle finger is expressive, protected First Amendment speech. Quoting the court, it's "crude, but not criminal."

Unfortunately for our hero plaintiff that filed a civil rights lawsuit against the cop under 42 USC 1983, the case isn't over. The appellate court was just chiming in on an interlocutory appeal on a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by the officer. The officer is claiming qualified immunity, but as the district and now appellate courts have held, it is clearly established that the simply giving middle finger, even to the cops, is protected speech.

And while you may not read every oddball civil rights opinion that gets handed out, the opening line of this short 5-pager, might convince you otherwise:

"Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule. But that doesn't make them illegal or for that matter punishable or for that matter grounds for a seizure."

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