Court: Flipping Middle Finger To Cop Is Protected Speech

March 14, 2019 - 11:34 am

TAYLOR (WWJ/AP) - When it comes to the middle finger, police might need a thicker skin.

A federal appeals court says a Michigan woman's constitutional rights were violated when she was handed a speeding ticket after giving the finger to a metro Detroit officer in 2017. The decision means a lawsuit by Debra Cruise-Gulyas can proceed.

In a 3-0 decision Wednesday, the court said Taylor Officer Matthew Minard "should have known better," even if the driver was rude.

Click here to read the court ruling (.pdf format)

Minard stopped Cruise-Gulyas and wrote her a ticket for a lesser violation. But when that stop was over, Cruise-Gulyas raised her middle finger.

Minard pulled her over again, less than 100 yards away from the first stop, and changed the ticket to a more serious speeding offense.

Cruise-Gulyas sued, saying her free-speech rights and her rights against unreasonable seizure were violated. Minard tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, saying he had qualified immunity.

Ultimately the judges sided with Cruise-Gulyas, saying she couldn't be stopped a second time in the absence of a new violation of the law, and that she had a free speech right to make the gesture.

"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," Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton said in the ruling. "All in all, Officer Minard clearly lacked authority to stop Cruise-Gulyas a second time."