Giving the middle finger to police, while rude and crude, is indeed constitutionally protected free speech, a federal appeals court ruled this week.
In a judgment from the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, three judges unanimously said that Debra Cruise-Gulyas was well within her first amendment rights when she flipped the bird at Michigan police officer Matthew Minard during a June 2017 traffic stop.
“Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in the Wednesday ruling. “But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable or for that matter grounds for a seizure.”
Minard had pulled Cruise-Gulyas over for speeding, but initially decided to be lenient and issue her a ticket for the lesser offense of what’s known as a non-moving violation.
Though as she drove away, still obviously a little pissed, Cruise-Gulyas “made an all-too-familiar gesture at Minard with her hand and without four of her fingers showing,” the court wrote, coyly.
This prompted Minard to pull Cruise-Gulyas over once more less than 100 yards away and change the ticket to the more serious offense of a speeding violation.
The woman subsequently sued Minard, saying he had no right to stop her in response to her sticking up her middle finger, and the three federal judges agreed “because Cruise-Gulyas did not break any law that would justify the second stop and at most was exercising her free speech rights.”
The federal court said it is well settled law that flipping the bird was protected speech.
“Minard should have known better here,” the judge wrote.
The decision means Cruise-Gulyas’ lawsuit against Minard can proceed back in the lower court.