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Flipping Off Police Officers is Constitutional

Let’s face it: If you don’t want to get pulled over by a police officer, you shouldn’t give him the finger as you’re driving by. But in case you do, he’s no longer allowed to pull you over and arrest you for that reason alone.

John Swartz was pulled over and arrested in May, 2006 when he allegedly flipped off a police officer who was using a radar gun to check the speed of passing vehicles. The officer claimed that he “thought there may have been a problem in the car” and “wanted to assure the safety of the passengers.” Swartz was later charged with the misdemeanor crime of disorderly conduct, which was later dismissed.

That wasn’t enough for Swartz, who later sued the officers for false arrest. The resulting judgment was in the officer’s favor, so Swartz’s attorney filed an appeal to the federal court. The court reversed the decision, ruling in Swartz’s favor. This means that a police officer can no longer pull you over for simply showing your middle finger.

This is important in cases such as DUI because an officer must have a legitimate reason for pulling you over. An officer can legally stop you for a broken taillight, swerving, speeding, etc. and then test you for signs of driving under the influence. But he may not legally pull you over based on suspicion alone or an insulting act, such as flipping him off.

Still, I wouldn’t recommend you try it.

If you or a loved one are arrested, contact Orange County criminal attorney Staycie R. Sena immediately at (949) 477-8088 for a free consultation.