Is It Illegal to Flip the Bird While Driving in Maine and New Hampshire?
It's summertime. You're cruising down 95 on your way to the beach and BOOM, some jerk from New Jersey completely cuts you off.
The driver has the audacity to throw their hands up at you, blame you, and scream at you through their windshield. To make matters worse, they beep at you repeatedly before getting in front of you, just to slow down.
You know what you want to do. The jerk who cut you off won't be able to hear any words you say, so you can only think of one thing. One little finger. The finger that will say everything you want to verbalize.
But can you legally flip that long middle finger? I mean, what is the worst thing that can happen? It is just a finger. But does the meaning of the finger hold enough weight to get you in trouble with the law?
Let's figure this out once and for all.
Let's face it. We have all wanted to use that special finger while driving at some point in our driving life.
And the short answer is no, it is not illegal. Showing any one of your fingers to another driver, although rude (depending on which finger you choose to show them), is not illegal at all.
But what about police officers? Are you legally allowed to flip the bird to the fuzz?
Again, the short answer is yes, it is legal.
"Because giving the middle finger isn’t illegal, a police officer can’t arrest you for making the gesture," according to a Shubin Law article.
If a cop chooses to arrest you for giving the finger because they classify it as disorderly conduct, you can hire a civil rights lawyer...Disorderly conduct is often described as when a person acts inappropriately or obscenely and disturbs the peace. A hand gesture is hardly arrest-worthy.
To be clear, flipping the bird to anyone, especially to the police who work so hard to keep our communities safe, is extremely rude. But it is certainly NOT illegal. And it has been tried before.
According to an NPR article:
In the sequence of events described by the court, a woman in Michigan, Debra Cruise-Gulyas, was pulled over in 2017 for speeding. The officer showed leniency, writing her up for a lesser violation known as a nonmoving violation. As she drove away, apparently insufficiently appreciative of the officer's gesture, Cruise-Gulyas made a certain gesture of her own. Or as the court put it, "she made an all-too-familiar gesture at [Officer Matthew] Minard with her hand and without four of her fingers showing."
The police officer immediately pulled her over again and rewrote the ticket for speeding. Cruise-Gulyas sued, arguing she had a First Amendment right to wiggle whatever finger she wanted at the police.
And she was right. Her First Amendment right did give her the freedom to wiggle any one of her fingers, even the long and diabolical middle finger.
"Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule," ruled Judge Jeffrey Sutton for the 3-0 panel according to NPR. "But that doesn't make them illegal or for that matter punishable."
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