By on March 18, 2019

Tell the truth — when driving by a police office operating a speed trap at the side of the road, have you ever been tempted to make a rude gesture? You know the one I’m talking about: the single digit, middle finger salute. A United States Court of Appeals has now confirmed judicially that it’s your right to do so, if you choose.

When Debra Cruise-Gulyas was pulled over for speeding in Taylor, Michigan by Officer Matthew Minard in 2017, she gave in to that very temptation. Well, not right away. After he stopped her, Officer Minard had apparently gave Cruise-Gulyas a bit of a break, citing her for a non-moving violation instead of speeding. Not mollified by the break she got, following the stop, as she drove away, Cruise decided to make a crude gesture directed at the police officer.

As the court put it, “she made an all-too-familiar gesture at Minard with her hand and without four of her fingers showing.”

Apparently piqued that he was not shown sufficient gratitude for his act of grace, Minard turned his emergency lights on and pulled Cruise-Gulyas over again, voiding the original ticket and instead rewrote her up for speeding. Cruise-Gulyas sued, arguing that she and her middle finger have rights to free expression under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In a unanimous 3-0 ruling earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th federal circuit agreed. “Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in the decision. “But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable.”

The case didn’t just hinge on the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment’s protections against “unreasonable” search and seizure require police to have a reason to pull you over. Once the first stop ended, the court ruled, those conditions no longer existed, making the second stop unconstitutional. “Cruise-Gulyas did not break any law that would justify the second stop and at most was exercising her free speech rights,” the court wrote.

The judges said that not only was her middle finger not cause for pulling her over, her rights to flip off the cop were well established Constitutional law. “Any reasonable officer would know that a citizen who raises her middle finger engages in speech protected by the First Amendment,” Sutton wrote.

Minard testified that he acted similarly to how a prosecutor might withdraw a plea bargain if a defendant subsequently acted inappropriately. The court, however, said that the facts of the case were more like “a judge who hauls the defendant back into court a week or two after imposing a sentence based on the defendant’s after-the-fact speech,” the court said. “Minard, in short, clearly had no proper basis for seizing Cruise-Gulyas a second time.”

The 6th Circuit ruling was on a procedural matter. The ruling allows Cruise-Gulyas’ lawsuit over the stop to proceed in a lower court.

[Image: Ford]

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71 Comments on “Federal Appeals Court Confirms Your Right to Flip Off a Traffic Cop...”


  • avatar
    jatz

    Anyone who flips off a cop deserves a night in the ‘hood with no wallet or phone.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    You should always follow-up by calling his mama a 2-bit whore, that always impresses them

  • avatar
    -Nate

    This is whiner bullshort ~

    _She_ failed the basic attitude test and ge what she deserved .

    Way to go, hassling an Officer who tried to be nice .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Hydromatic

      A police officer should always maintain a respectful, professional demeanor despite whatever temper-tantrum BS the public pulls. A cop who’s ticked off enough over a bird sent his way to the point where it actually impacts how he carries out his duties should be put on desk duty, pending comprehensive retraining.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Oh, _PUH-LEASE_ ! .

        You all scardy cat White folks need to live in some place where there are NO COPS then see if you don’t sing a different tune .

        -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Can’t we all just get along?

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            But he’ll see the BIG BOARD!

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            “Can’t we all just get along?”

            Yes, of _course_ but so many these days don’t grasp that acting like a child means it’s right and proper to treat you like a child .

            -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          “You all scardy cat White folks need to live in some place where there are NO COPS then see if you don’t sing a different tune.”

          Can you say you have honestly been somewhere where Anarchy reigns outside of who has the biggest and most guns? This white guy can. I have also been places where minor infractions begat massive punishments. I’d rather not have that here. However, The court has held up that things that I find offensive such as burning a flag are OK. That’s cool, Free country and all that, but I fail to see how this is different. What harm was done to the Cop? Do we now have a protected class to whom you can’t be rude?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Rudeness isn’t right, but it’s not illegal. Sucks that cops have to put up with this kind of garbage, but that comes with the territory.

      • 0 avatar

        Cops and other government employees are about the only folks who can use the power of the criminal justice system to deal with people who annoy them on the job. It’s a hell of a perk.

        Let’s compare two somewhat simiar situations.

        You operate a business. A customer is upset over bad service. The argument gets heated. Voices are raised. You call the police and ask them to remove her from your property.

        You’re at city hall, paying $1.44 in loose change for what the city manager is charging you for an FOIA request you had to file because the same city manager wouldn’t tell you something that was on the public record. You decide to amuse yourself by quietly and calmly telling the cashier that since the city manager thinks it’s amusing to annoy people, you’re going to be as annoying as you can be to her, with a psychopathic grin on your face, and that the $1.44 might be a penny or two short, you’re not sure so she should count it twice. She calls for the police.

        To which call will your local PD respond more quickly?

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          As with all hypothetical questions that can’t be answered with hard data, the answer to your question is: the police will respond in the way you expect them to, based on your own particular worldview.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    If I was the cop, that is exactly what I would have done. Just because you have the “right” to do something doesn’t mean you should. My philosophy is “respect the police, they have a hard enough job already”.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    That’s fine. Flip off a cop because you’re a petulant child.

    I hope at that point the officer writes you a ticket for every equipment violation he can find. Air freshener hanging from the mirror? Ticket. Cracked windshield? Ticket. Tires too worn? Ticket. License plate light out? Ticket.

    Or just be a respectful adult and if you feel you were wronged, explain why in court.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Oh geez, here we go.

    A lame radar trap/tax collector with a badge is hardly the thin blue line guarding modern civilization from being overrun by the barbarians.

    Flip off a speed trap = deserve to spend a night in the ghetto? I’ll agree with that if you’ll agree that whoever manning that speed trap deserves to get a lame looking special car, uniform, and badge that makes them look like a mall cop.

    BTW, if I get tagged by a radar trap it’s because I wasn’t paying enough attention. I then swallow my pride and I politely take my consequences like a man (the consequences are pay the stupidity tax and get back on my way). But back to what I think of that speed trap, no, it’s not the last line of defense of western civilization, so let’s not pretend that’s what it is.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Thank you.

      As in so many things, the guys/gals who actually have the tough jobs don’t need to prove it by acting tough where it isn’t warranted. Someone who loses their sh!t over a middle finger isn’t the kind of person I want protecting me anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Not so fast…we may resent the guy who’s “revenueing,” but he could be doing that one minute, and dealing with a dangerous person the next.

      I think a lot of resentment of police stems from the fact that they get stuck doing things that we can’t (or won’t) pay other municipal employees to do. They’re thrust into roles like tax collector, social worker, or psychologist. Some folks would like to see “immigration agent” added to their resumes. Problem is, none of that stuff’s really in the skill set of most cops, and as a result, they end up doing a lousy job.

      If we really value what police do, maybe it’s time for us to stop depending on them to do things that they aren’t any good at because we’re too cheap to pay for someone else to do it.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Well put FreedMike. I’ve said elsewhere that a lot of the problems that have come out of various police forces stem from a lack of support. Internal, from the govt, and from the public in general.

        But frustration is no justification for the violation of one’s rights. Not by civilians or police.

    • 0 avatar
      cartunez

      Agreed Jim. The police are largely are involved in “Law Enforcement” aka finding things to write tickets for that produce a fine. If the Police were actually tasked with dealing with what most people understand to be real crimes of society people would not have issues with them.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    She has the right to flip him off.

    He has the right to ticket her to the full extent of the law.

    She the right to challenge the tickets in court.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      He did ticket her. He did not have the right to stop her again unless she comitted another infraction. Also I am not certain the whole “follow her until she commits another infraction” jives with the whole equal protection bit.

      • 0 avatar
        King of Eldorado

        Correct. It’s the two separate stops — the second without probable cause –that made this a fairly cut-and-dried case. It would be interesting to know how a court would decide if the cop said “I’m just going to give you a warning” and then changed his or her mind based on the driver’s attitude, all in the course of the same stop.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “As the court put it, “she made an all-too-familiar gesture at Minard with her hand and without four of her fingers showing.””

    What gesture is that? The raised fist?

  • avatar
    NG5

    Being rude isn’t great but it isn’t a crime. It’s surprising how many people are here praying for de facto new regulations and punishments against rudeness.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    This is a victory and affirmation of rule of law rather than rule by fiat. That would be fiat, not Fiat the car, but “an arbitrary decree or pronouncement, especially by a person or group of persons having absolute authority to enforce it: The king ruled by fiat.”
    If there was a written law against flipping off a cop, then he could have stopped her a second time and charged her with violating that law.
    Anybody here who does not entertain the possibility that the profession of policeman does not attract men and women of ego, vanity, self importance, or a bully personality needs to reassess their views.
    Bone up on your civics lessons people!

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    So far in this thread, it is discernible which commenters would allow a lawless dictatorship to arise in place of a democratic republic that is ruled by laws that are held to be supreme over any individual, including premier, prime minister, or president.
    I’ll take fair elections and rule of law, thank you.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Did you read the full article? He didn’t ticket her for giving him the finger. He had just let her off for a law she had broken and then he decided she was not deserving of his generosity based on the new information that she was an entitled imbecile. He was right in every sense. When an officer has you dead to rights and gives you a warning, the expectation is that you’ll at least try to respect the law for the rest of the day. She showed contempt for the law, so the only way she was going to learn not to break the law was through the full penalty for breaking the law.

      Based on the headline, I thought this was a great story. I envisioned the hilarity of revenuers being exposed to the contempt the public feels for their tax-collector roles. Having read the article, this is nothing more than some liberal judges putting the tax-payers on the hook for a frivolous lawsuit meant to further erode our sense of justice. Yippee.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        “…the expectation is that you’ll at least try to respect the law for the rest of the day. She showed contempt for the law, so the only way she was going to learn not to break the law was through the full penalty for breaking the law.”

        That is the issue. She did not break the law after she was left off with a warning. Flipping off a police officer is rude and disrespectful, but not against the law. You can’t penalize someone for showing “contempt for the law” if they broke no law in their “contempt.” That is why she won her case, the officer had no legal reason for pulling her over the second time. For it to stick the police officer had to find a valid reason for pulling her over again (I’m sure a smart one could, pulling over immediately and ticketing for the exact things you just gave a warning about is not the smart way to do it if you want it to hold up in court).

      • 0 avatar

        “Respect for the law” does not equal “respect for law enforcement officers”. Contempt of cop is still not a crime in America even if holster sniffers want it to be so.

        Do you really want to argue that upholding the First and Fourth Amendments againt overreach by a government agent is a politically liberal act? Well, maybe in the sense of classical liberalism, but certainly not how today’s leftist progressive “liberals” would see it.

        I guess that may be why I end up on the libertarian side of the conservative/libertarian split. A lot of self-described conservatives only like the governement when it’s the police.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          or the military.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          She was speeding. She received a ticket for speeding. She could have avoided it by being a civil human being, but she didn’t. Whether we should have so many laws that law enforcement is constantly in the business of conducting selective prosecutions is a separate issue, but I have no problem with a speeder being ticketed for speeding. Is the rule of law a conservative principle? Why yes, it is.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            Ok, so should the cop be fired because he initially decided not to ticket her? After all, that shows unfair favoritism to some speeders over others. Maybe she would have gotten out of the ticket because of her gender. That would have been sexist.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        I did read the full article.

  • avatar
    deanst

    So now intelligent cops will just follow you for about 30 seconds before they can spot a trivial infraction they can ticket you for.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    One can whip off the cops, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

    I’m sure Officer Friendly could find something else wrong with your car, or detain or hassle you for even longer. Or even find something to arrest you with – even though charges may even be dropped, you’ll still have your time & money taken by the court.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      He could have shot her to death too. The law doesn’t stop anyone from doing anything; it just enumerates the punishments the law decrees if one is found guilty.

      So if said officer of the law actually respects and follows the very law he is enforcing, then no, he wouldn’t do any of that.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    I would not have flipped off the cop; that’s being a petty jerk and she fits the bill IMO.

    But the cop should have blown if off. The fact she’s a jerk did not pose a real threat to him. The common citizen will likely get upset about that, but the police are granted powers greater than the common citizen. We should expect them to have a level of temperament greater than what we expect of those citizens. The world is full of jerks and there are better uses for an officers time than to tilt at those windmills. Using his powers for personal vengeance is unwarranted.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    There is a long list of technically legal behaviors I’d like to see punishable before we outlaw pointing the back of your hand upwards with a certain finger extended….

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Good example of how legality and morality are two VERY different things.

  • avatar
    George B

    I agree with the court ruling. The police officer was justified in stopping Debra Cruise-Gulyas for speeding. He chose to give her a lesser ticket for a different violation which might not be entirely above board, not clear from the story, but it would likely save Debra money on her car insurance. Debra showed her gratitude with a middle finger salute. However, since the police officer didn’t report an additional traffic violation after the stop, there was no justification for the 2nd traffic stop.

    As a practical matter I’d never flip off the police while driving. Most drivers including myself routinely break traffic laws, but not by enough to cause the police to pull us over. Speeding, but within their tolerance. Stopping past the stop bar before turning right on red. Not coming to a complete stop for every stop sign in seldom patrolled residential neighborhoods. There are lots of opportunities for the police to selectively enforce the law against anyone who draws attention to themselves.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Here’s a wild idea: just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean we have to do it.

    It’s like there’s a war of escalation when it comes to rudeness in our country, and it’s been that way for 30 years — possibly longer.

    Whether you like the ruling or not, the next time someone screws something up, or does something you are unhappy about, trying being polite and a nice person to them. Stop looking at the existence of different political/religious/whatever views as an attempt to personally insult you.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    What a load of crap .

    You emotional and mental children are skipping the entire point :

    This is a plain and simple case of the woman lacking common courtesy and then crying when called on it .

    SHE BROKE THE LAW SPEEDING , the cop DID HER A FAVOR AND SHE PUNISHED HIM FOT IT .

    Plain and simple, this had _nothing_ to do with police states, living in the Ghetto, etc., etc. .

    You who are being dishonest here and crying, should be ashamed .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    I’ll add this to my list of “things which are technically possible but still inadvisable” (which by the way would make an awesome QOTD).

    This person sounds pretty entitled – is the judge aware that she flipped *the judge* off while exiting the courtroom? LOL

  • avatar
    FOG

    Simple solution for the Policeman going forward. Everyone gets a moving violation with her name on it. The courts just said that police should not give anyone a break.


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