The police cannot pull you over just because you decide to flip them the bird, so says the 2nd Circuit Court in Utica, NY.
In an interesting and surprisingly historical account of the use of the middle finger, which you can read here, the Court decided that the police had no probable cause to pull over a car when the passenger stuck his hand outside the car window and gave the officer the middle finger. Calling the use of the middle finger “an ancient gesture of insult,” the Court held that giving the officer the middle finger alone, without any other criminal act, does not form the basis for reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.
In this case, the officer pulled along side a car with a female driver and a male passenger. The male passenger noticed that the officer was using his radar gun to try and catch speeding drivers. The male passenger apparently disapproved of the police officer’s attempts to pull over speeding drivers and signaled this displeasure by flipping the officer the bird. This prompted the officer to follow the car to its destination and eventually arrest the man for disorderly conduct. Those charges were eventually dropped but, feeling that the officer acted maliciously towards him, the man filed a lawsuit claiming his civil rights were violated. In allowing the case to proceed to a jury, the 2nd Circuit held that the man’s decision to give the officer the finger was not a crime and, thus, the officer’s decision to arrest the man could be considered a violation of his right against unlawful search and seizure under the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.