Man Who Gave Police The Finger Gets Federal Case Reinstated
from the digitus-impudicus dept
But that's exactly what Vietnam veteran John Swartz of New York did, flipping off an officer and his speed gun as he drove past in 2006. He was subsequently pulled over and arrested for disorderly conduct. He's apparently been fighting back ever since and now his court case has been reinstated by a federal appeals court, who didn't believe the arresting officer's explanation that he pulled the car over because he thought the middle finger was meant as an alert that the female driver, Swartz's wife, needed assistance.
From the three judge panel:
Perhaps there is a police officer somewhere who would interpret an automobile passenger's giving him the finger as a signal of distress, creating a suspicion that something occurring in the automobile warranted investigation. And perhaps that interpretation is what prompted Insogna to act, as he claims. But the nearly universal recognition that this gesture is an insult deprives such an interpretation of reasonableness. This ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity. Surely no passenger planning some wrongful conduct toward another occupant of an automobile would call attention to himself by giving the finger to a police officer.On the one hand, it's good that a court recognized that there is no law against flipping off the police and that free speech should be protected from hysterically reaching justifications for revenge arrests like this. On the other hand, it's a little sad that a federal appeals court has to delve into such territory at all. Of course, none of this should be read as some embrace for flipping off police in general, but speech is speech and it should be protected. In any case, this isn't over yet and no date for trial has yet been set, so we'll have to wait for a verdict.