Appeals court upholds lewd gestures toward police

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the rights of individuals to make a lewd gesture towards law enforcement personnel, typically known as "giving someone the finger." Law enforcement personnel do not have the right to pull someone over and arrest them just on the basis of that action. The insulting motion does not give police reason to suspect that a person has committed a traffic offense or is about to engage in a crime.

The case in question resulted from a 2006 incident when a couple who "flipped off" law enforcement personnel at a traffic check point in New York sued two police officers. The defendant was accused of violating disorderly conduct laws, but criminal defense attorneys successfully requested a dismissal due to a delay in the trial.

A federal judge found on the behalf of the police, but the Court of Appeals has referred the case back to the lower courts. The police officer in the case claimed he stopped the couple because he thought they wanted to get his attention. However, the appeals court did not agree with his defense as the gesture is associated with rudeness.

The constitutionality of many types of civil violations, such as burning the flag or refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, has been called into question over the years. A criminal defense attorney can look at the circumstances surrounding an incident to ensure that someone's civil rights are not denied through law enforcement overextending their authority. Lawyers can fight for the protection of rights for their clients.

Source:, "Flipping Off Police Officers Constitutional, Federal Court Affirms," Ryan J. Reilly, Jan. 3, 2013

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