January 4, 2013
The year got off to an excellent start with a federal appeals court affirming that it is not only permissible to give cops the finger from a passing car, assuring that they are not above the law as so many of them like to believe, but that citizens can sue them if they are arrested for it.
Today’s decision  from the Second Circuit is not the first time that a court has ruled that flipping off police is legal and it probably won’t be the last judging by the number  of times  I’ve covered it on this blog.
In fact, it is so common for police to arrest citizens for flipping them off, usually under disorderly conduct charges, that American University legal scholar Ira P. Robbins published an extensive paper on the subject in 2008, going back decades in case law, clarifying that unless the obscene gesture is accompanied by “fighting words,” or words that convey a threat, it is considered merely an expression, which means it is protected speech.
But despite this, prosecutors insist on prosecuting these cases, most likely because way too many judges refuse to acknowledge the Constitutional protections of this act.
In the most recent case, stemming from a 2006 arrest, New York resident John Swartz was a passenger in a car his wife was driving when they passed a police officer using a radar detector.