Well, good news for you fans of the middle finger. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled Wednesday that a motorist did not violate the law when she flipped the bird at a Taylor cop in June 2017 after a traffic stop. The court ruled she was exercising her free speech.
"Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule," the court wrote in its ruling. "But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable or for that matter grounds for a seizure."
The ruling paves the way for a lawsuit filed by the motorist Debra Cruise-Gulyas to proceed.
It all began when Taylor cop Matthew Waynbe Minard pulled over Cruise-Gulyas for speeding. To give her a break, he wrote her a ticket for a non-moving violation, which carries no points.
"As she drove away, apparently ungrateful for the reduction, she made an all-too-familiar gesture at Minard with her hand and without four of her fingers showing," the court wrote in a five-page opinion. "That did not make Minard happy. He pulled her over again and changed the ticket to a moving violation—a speeding offense and what counts as a more serious violation of Michigan law."
Cruise-Gulyas sued Minard, alleging that he violated her constitutional rights, including free speech, by pulling her over a second time and changing the original ticket to a more serious violation. Minard asked that the suit be dismissed based on qualified immunity, which means, as a cop he's immuned from lawsuits unless he violated a person’s constitutional or statutory rights.
The court concluded:
The gesture did not violate any identified law. The officer indeed has not argued to the contrary. Nor does her gesture on its own create probable cause or reasonable suspicion that she violated any law.