The Middle Finger Can Be Free Speech

Posted by Thomas Wilson | Apr 07, 2019 | 0 Comments

According to a recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit decision, a driver who gave the middle finger to a police officer was protected by free speech. Debra Cruise-Gulyas was driving through suburban Detroit when Officer Matthew Minard pulled her over for speeding. Officer Minard issued Cruise-Gulyas a ticket for a lesser violation, a nonmoving violation.

As Cruise-Gulyas was driving away, she raised a middle finger to the officer, or as the court called it, “she made an all-too-familiar gesture at Minard with her hand and without four of her fingers showing." Officer Minard went after her again and pulled her over, this time upgrading the violation to a speeding ticket.

Cruise-Gulyas filed a lawsuit against the officer, claiming she had a First Amendment right to give the cop the finger. The court agreed with the driver. In the opinion, Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote, "Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule but that doesn't make them illegal or for that matter punishable."

The court also found that after Cruise-Gulyas drove away after the first ticket, the officer needed a legitimate reason to make the second traffic stop, and without one, the officer's actions constituted an unreasonable seizure.

When Can the Police Pull You Over

The police may be justified in making a traffic stop for any type of traffic violation or if they reasonably suspect you may be committing a crime. There are so many traffic statutes that the police may be able to pull over most drivers after observing them for long enough. Even minor issues like window tinting, playing music too loud, or tossing a cigarette butt out the window may give the police a reason to make a traffic stop.

Silence is Golden in a Traffic Stop

The old adage goes, “if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.” The same can be said for a traffic stop. If there is any chance you could say something that could incriminate you, it is better to remain silent. If you are arrested, you can ask for your attorney before answering any questions.

The police are experienced at asking tricky questions and trying to catch you in a lie or conflicting statements. You may end up arrested if the police have probable cause but you should not give them any additional evidence to use against you in court.

Using middle finger against the police may be protected by free speech but it is generally not the right course of action. You stand the best change by remaining calm and polite. Remember, it is not up to the police to convict you of a crime, it is up to the courts. If you believe your rights were being violated when you were pulled over, questioned, or arrested, you can challenge your arrest in court.

Using a computer to test for false robbery reports may help police identify individuals who may statistically be less likely to be reporting the truth. However, this could result in the police failing to take real reports as seriously, just because the victim aligned with the false report profile.

Charlottesville Criminal Defense Lawyer

The police are used to following their standard practices and may end up violating your constitutional rights through an illegal search, illegal seizure, stopping a vehicle without cause, or other illegal actions. You deserve to have someone on your side to fight for you to avoid criminal charges and uphold your rights. Your Charlottesville criminal defense attorney will investigate your case, identify all your defenses, and challenge the criminal charges against you. Contact attorney Thomas M. Wilson today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Thomas Wilson

I provide free initial consultations seven days per week, including all evenings, weekends, and holidays, from 8 AM to 6 PM. I charge by an agreed upon fixed fee, and provide prompt, virtually immediate, responses and answers. I concentrate my practice solely in the areas of Traffic Law, including DUI, Reckless Driving, Assault and Battery, Drug Crimes, Larceny, Firearm Crimes, and numerous other criminal offenses


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