Police can't pull you over and arrest you just because you gave them the finger, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled Jan. 3. In a 14-page opinion, the court found that the "ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity." John Swartz and his wife Judy Mayton-Swartz had sued two police officers who arrested Swartz in May 2006 after he flipped off an officer who was using a radar device at an intersection in St. Johnsville, NY. Swartz was charged with a violation of New York's disorderly conduct statute, although the charges were dropped on speedy trial grounds.
A federal judge in the Northern District of New York granted summary judgement to the officers in July 2011, but the Court of Appeals overturned that decision and ordered the lower court to take up the case again. Richard Insogna, the officer who stopped Swartz and his wife when they arrived at their destination, claimed he pulled the couple over because he believed Swartz was "trying to get my attention for some reason." The Second Circuit didn't buy that explanation, ruling that the "nearly universal recognition that this gesture is an insult deprives such an interpretation of reasonableness." (Huffington Post, Jan. 3)
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