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Rude gestures protected by First Amendment

Illinois residents may have been tempted to say rude things or make rude gestures toward police officers. According to a federal appeals court, that is not grounds for an officer to conduct a traffic stop. The case in question involved a female driver in Michigan who received a citation for a non-moving violation. She had allegedly been speeding at the time that the traffic stop was conducted.

Although it could be argued that the officer let the woman off easy, she returned the favor by extending her middle finger to the man. In response, the officer pulled the woman over again and wrote the speeding ticket, which she said was a violation of her First Amendment rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit agreed saying that while she may have been acting in an offensive manner, what she did was not illegal.

In its 3-0 ruling, the court said that there was no basis for the second traffic stop. The ruling compared the stop to a judge who brought a defendant back into court to sentence that person again based on his or her speech after the original sentence was handed down. However, the officer argued that his actions were more like a prosecutor going back on a plea deal. The court's ruling allows a lawsuit to proceed in a lower court.

Although traffic tickets are relatively minor infractions, there must still be a legal basis to hand them out. Drivers who feel as if they were ticketed without cause may want to meet with an attorney to see if mounting a challenge would be worthwhile.

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