Middle Finger Legal: Flip Cops The Bird All You Like

Show cops the bird

Remember the days when you had to rein in your impulses and not react to that rude cop who just pulled you over? Those days are now behind us because it’s finally legal to flip the bird to “Officer Friendly.”

The US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled Thursday that a police officer can no longer arrest you for showing him or her your middle digit, reports MSN. The 14-page opinion finds that the “ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”

The Huffington Post reports that this all started when John Swartz and his wife Judy Mayton-Swartz sued two police officers who arrested Swartz in May 2006 after he flipped the bird to an officer who was using a radar device at an intersection in St. Johnsonville, NY. Swartz was charged with a violation of New York’s disorderly conduct statute, but the charges were later dismissed on speedy trial grounds.

Then, a federal judge in New York’s Northern District granted summary judgment to the officers in July 2011, but the Court of Appeals erased the decision on Thursday, ordering the lower court to review the case once more.

The officer who stopped Swartz and his wife when they arrived at their destination claimed that he pulled the two over because he though Swartz was “trying to get my attention for some reason.” Well, appeals didn’t go for that explanation and said that the “nearly universal recognition that this gesture is an insult deprives such an interpretation of reasonableness.”

Basically, flipping the bird to cops (archaically known as “giving the finger”) is no longer threatening to police, nor is it reasonable cause for arrest. Of course, if police pull you over for something else and you show them the middle finger, they might be able to make a case for resisting arrest, so make sure you’re not doing anything wrong when you flip them off.