When Flipping Off the Police Is A First Amendment Issue

by Michael John Scott

We are surrounded by idiots, and the police regularly play in the sandbox with them.  I can guarantee it’s not always a fun time.  This Newsweek article makes my point:

An Indiana man argues in a federal lawsuit filed last week that he had a First Amendment right to give the middle finger to a state trooper and that his free speech was violated when the gesture earned him a ticket

The defendant, Mark May, is seeking unspecified damages from Indiana State Police Master Trooper Matt Ames.

According to a complaint filed Thursday, Ames “aggressively cut in front” May at a state road intersection in Terre Haute in August 2017. May realized Ames was pursuing another motorist, but he was annoyed because he thought the chase was “not a wise use of police resources” and because he felt the state trooper pulled a move that would have got another motorist ticketed.

So when May passed Ames on the road, he gave him the finger.

Ames, in turn, pulled May over and gave him a ticket for provocation, an offense that could lead to a fine up to $500. Ames was “quite angry and loud” when he handed down the punishment and May “was concerned about the Master Trooper’s demeanor,” the complaint says.

May was later found guilty of the provocation offense, though the Vigo County Superior Court voided the judgment when he challenged it . The lawsuit says May, a self-employed carpet cleaner, “lost income” as a result of the two court appearances he had to make.

May contends that he had every constitutional right to flip off the trooper, and caused no harm.

“While perhaps ill-advised, Mr. May’s gesture, which in no way interfered with the Master Trooper’s lawful activities, was fully protected by the First Amendment,” the complaint says. It also accuses Ames of violating May’s Fourth Amendment rights with an unreasonable traffic stop.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the suit on behalf on May. The Indiana State Police has not commented.

Be careful out there.  You are surrounded by idiots.

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Posted by on February 4, 2018. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION,Social Issues. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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7 Responses to When Flipping Off the Police Is A First Amendment Issue

  1. jess Reply

    February 4, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Ah the power when it goes to a person’s head, is an awful thing.

  2. Timmy Mahoney Reply

    February 4, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    That “provoking” law is unique, and bizarre. The trooper should have just written the shithead carpet cleaner a ticket for the traffic violation. The rest is nonsense if you ask me.

  3. Ron Reed Reply

    February 4, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Best NOT TO FLIP OFF THE POLICE. I’ll wager this cuckoo bird had a record long as your arm. Cop haters usually do.

  4. Glenn R. Geist Reply

    February 5, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Remember Doctor Ben Marble? After Katrina he found Dick Cheney standing on the lawn of his damaged house and told the VP to “Go F**k youself Mr. Cheney.” the secret Service jumped on him but had to let him go because of that constitution thing. So if a GFY is protected speech, a finger must also be.

    Now, as an adult, i recognize that the finger is the marker of the party who thinks he lost. Besides as a Florida resident, I’m aware of just how many armed psychos there are on the road. But provocation is in the mind of the provoked and that mind is not always rational. I would suggest using the British form with two fingers and one could always plead “victory sign”

    Frankly I think the guy was within his rights – but stupid.

  5. Bill Formby Reply

    February 5, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    Back in the 60s and 70s if I had stopped and ticketed every person that had shot me the bird just because I was a police officer I would have never gotten anything else done. I would have to agree with Glenn. It is, in a way, nothing more than a rude sign of protest.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      February 5, 2018 at 10:19 pm

      I’ve been flipped off regularly as well, but when I could find a violation the flipper got a ticket. Didn’t know you could actually write a citation for the actual flipping.

  6. ken WOOD Reply

    February 6, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    way to go Mike

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