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Flipping Off the Police Is Legal, But So Is Picking Your Nose

by Adriana Velez on January 4, 2013 at 10:30 AM

police officerJust so you know? It's your constitutional right to flip off the police. I'm not saying you should flip off the police. I'm just letting you know, if you happen to have the bad manners to flip off a police officer, he doesn't get to pull you over and arrest you for it.

This came up recently when John Swartz flipped off a police officer using radar at an intersection. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Swartz and his wife sued the police, and a court ruled that this "ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity." 

As for the officer who arrested Swartz, he claims he pulled the man over because he thought he was "trying to get my attention for some reason." Ha, yeah right, said the court. Obviously, "nearly universal recognition that this gesture is an insult deprives such an interpretation of reasonableness." 

So to summarize: Everyone knows that when you give someone the finger, you're trying to insult them on purpose. But insulting a police officer with your middle digit isn't illegal because it's just your stupid finger, get over it everyone.

Okay, so there are probably times when you feel truly justified in flipping off the police -- say, when they're pepper-spraying your best friend for protesting. But for the most part I feel like this falls under the category of "just because it's legal doesn't mean you should do it." I mean, farting in public is legal, too. But please don't! Maybe we could all resolve in 2013 not to flip off anyone at all.

Would you ever flip off a police officer?


Image via qwrrty/Flickr

Filed Under: in the news, law


  • Vegeta


    January 4, 2013 at 10:37 AM
    My police friends would still pull them over and find something else to write them a ticket for and just write a code in the margin so the judge can tell the guy was an asshole.
  • sarah
    -- Nonmember comment from


    January 4, 2013 at 10:55 AM
    i think too often the police give out tickets or pull people over just to prove a point thinking that no one will fight them. if i want to flip off a cop thats my right because i dont see them arresting anyone for flipping off me.
  • Karma...


    January 4, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Sorry but flipping off a cop is just immature. Unless you're a 15 year old kid there's no excuse. 

    In previous cases they all used the 1st Ammendment defense. Good for them. Just remember that cop you're flipping off simply because you can will likely be the person coming to your aid if you ever find yourself needing 911.

  • Doomy234


    January 4, 2013 at 11:06 AM
    Wow. A cop actually lost in court? Thats really surprising to me. I wouldnt flip off a cop unless they had already written me a bullshit ticket and started driving away. Did that last time we got a ticket for window tint violation when he had actually pulled us over because he thought our tomato plant was marijuana. So he wrote us a ticket because he was too stupid to tell the difference and blamed it on our windows being 10% too dark.
  • Elise48


    January 4, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Yes, I would, but that's because I pretty much dislike all police officers. They all seem to be on an unjustified power trip.

  • Mom2f...


    January 4, 2013 at 11:41 AM
    The cops in my area are douchebags and on a serious power trip. We had our vehicle broken into and they told us they wouldn't take evidence the perp left in our vehicle even though several cars ha been broken into but pull my hubby over told him he ran a red light which he didn't even do! It turned after he turned.
  • Mom2f...


    January 4, 2013 at 11:42 AM
    And gave him a 200 dollar ticket. This is right after our car was broken into and had all of our rent money stolen.
  • dirti...


    January 4, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    it's legal, but doesn't make it smart. and personally, i'd rather not draw the attention of a cop to me for something stupid like flipping him off when he's not bothering me and vice versa. i've had some incredibly crazy and rude experiences with cops over the years, and even when they were jerks - i never flipped them off. mostly because to me it's just silly and i'd rather be the cool, collected person on the other end than the crazy person screaming at cops until they're forced to be arrested. 

  • Felly...


    January 4, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    Good god, sounds like high school all over again. Bunch of upper middle class kids with a 'fuck tha po-lice' attitude thinking they're so thug for flipping off an officer of the law, Let me tell you what, when I was 15 I was almost kidnapped and the only thing that stopped the guy was a police officer.

  • Jenkins
    -- Nonmember comment from


    March 4, 2013 at 5:01 PM
    Wow. Your anecdotal story must mean all cops are wonderful people, FellyScarlett! Never mind the Chicago cop that roughed up a female bartender and then threatened her after she pressed charges on him. That other Illniois cop that killed his previous spouse and likely his current spouse (at the time)... Yeah, wonderful people. If people flip off a cop, it is because of the experiences they've had with them aren't good. If you had good experiences, don't flip them off!
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