Do You Have a First Amendment Right to Flip Off the Cops?

Reason – by Christian Britschgi

The Indiana branch of the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting for your constitutional right to flip off the cops.

Last week the group filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mark May of Vigo County, Indiana. May was ticketed $500 for flipping off Iowa State Trooper Matt Ames while driving down a state highway last year.  

According to May, Ames had “aggressively” cut him off in the attempt to pull over another vehicle. Not believing Ames’ actions to be “a wise use of police resources,” May did what any red-blooded patriot would do and gave the trooper the finger.

The gesture so enraged Ames that he broke off the traffic stop he was engaged in and instead pulled over May, issuing him a $500 ticket for “provocation.”

Provocation is a Class C infraction in Indiana, defined as “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engages in conduct that is likely to provoke a reasonable person to commit battery.”

May challenged the ticket in Terre Haute City Court. He lost there, but he did have his conviction vacated by Vigo County Superior Court. The ACLU’s suit seeks damages for the violation of his constitutional rights, and for the days of work May lost while having to appear in court.

Giving Ames the middle finger, the lawsuit claims, does not qualify as provocation and did nothing to interfere with the officer’s duties. Thus, while May’s gesture was “perhaps inadvisable,” he was nevertheless “engaged in expressive activity fully protected” by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also argues that because Ames’ reason for pulling May over was illegitimate, the traffic stop was both unreasonable and done without probable cause, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Needless to say, it’s poor form to give someone the middle finger in traffic, or indeed pretty much anywhere. But cops ought to know the difference between a violation of etiquette and a violation of the law.

6 thoughts on “Do You Have a First Amendment Right to Flip Off the Cops?

  1. If a pig can be provoked that easy
    He’s a pussy and needs to find a job being a bag boy at Kroger

    And making a law like that is a violation of our rights
    It has no teeth and sounds like some baby wrote it

  2. I’m confused, how does an Iowa State trooper pull people over in Indiana?

    I agree EOS, if seeing the bird is so upsetting, this pansy trooper needs a rubber room, not a badge and a gun.

  3. I have a solution.

    You just cut off everyone’s middle finger.

    I mean…hell…

    I can still wipe my butt and pick my nose without it.

    Because I believe in providing viable solutions.

    In a world of fkd up answers.

  4. YES: Oregon Man Wins Right to Give Police the Finger (11/02/2010):

    Nichols v. Chacon, 110 F.Supp. 2d 1099 (W.D. Ark. 2000) (Federal trial court rules that motorist’s gesture of displaying his middle finger to an officer driving by was protected First Amendment speech; officer was not entitled to qualified immunity and could be held liable for arresting motorist for disorderly conduct.);

    Plucking the Yew: Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous weapon was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as “plucking the yew” (or “pluck yew”). Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, “See, we can still pluck yew! “PLUCK YEW!” Since ‘pluck yew’ is rather difficult to say, especially if you’ve lost a few teeth in battle, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative ‘F’, and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute! It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as “giving the bird.” And yew thought yew knew everything … isn’t history more fun when you know something about it?

  5. “Do You Have a First Amendment Right to Flip Off the Cops?”

    I have an UNALIENABLE RIGHT to flip off the PIGS.

  6. You had a 2nd Amendment Right to point a gun on a cop while using your 1st Amendment Right to yell at him if you believed the cop was ready to kill you or do you harm. Now you have neither. That was back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Now you’ll have the whole damn force on you making up stories after they nail your ass to the wall or shoot you dead, mobster style.

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