Giving a Cop the Middle Finger Is Totally Legal Now

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Look, no court is really going to condone your behavior if you're caught flipping off the police as you fly by them on the highway, but from now on, if a cop tries to pull you over for it, tell him Judge Jon O. Newman sent you. In federal appeals court today, Newman said the "ancient gesture of insult" was not a "reasonable" justification for assuming you're speeding. He was ruling in the case of one John Swartz, who took his case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and, according to the ruling, had three officers called for backup just because he flipped the bird at a cop waiting for him in a speed trap. According to John's take on the events:

After backup was called, John was arrested:

As the court document points out, there was no violation, but Swartz still got himself followed. And while he may have got off in the end, take this into account before exercising your newfound right to flaunt your middle finger at a policeman — because the cops can always have a different story:

In his deposition, Insogna said that after he saw John give him the finger, he decided to follow the car “to initiate a stop on it.”  As reasons he stated: (1) John’s gesture “appeared to me he was trying to get my attention for some reason,” (2) “I thought that maybe there could be a problem in the car.  I just wanted to assure the safety of the passengers,” and (3) “I was concerned for the female driver, if there was a domestic dispute.”

But what matters here is the judge's ruling, right? And Judge Newman ruled with Swartz, complete with some semi-deep thoughts on the long history of the middle finger: 

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Newman went on: "On the Plaintiffs’ version of the facts, the stop was not lawful, and it was error to grant the Defendants summary judgment on the Plaintiffs’ claim concerning the stop." So there you have it — assuming that you aren't breaking any other law, it is totally within your federal rights to flip off the police. We're just not sure if all the handcuffing drama Swartz went through was quite worth it. Or maybe it was?

The full ruling can be found here.

Photo by: bikeriderlondon via Shutterstock.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.