Minard, a police officer in the city of Taylor, Michigan, stopped Cruise-Gulyas in June 2017 for speeding. But he decided to show her leniency and wrote her a ticket for a non-moving violation. As she drove away, Cruise-Gulyas repaid Minard’s kindness by raising her middle finger at him. Minard pulled Cruise-Gulyas over a second time, less than 100 yards from where the initial stop occurred, and amended the ticket to a speeding violation.

So can a cop legally pull you over for flipping him off? Is it a violation of your constitutional rights?


In that case, Cruise-Gulyas was subject to a second stop, and the court found that the second stop was an illegal seizure. There is no qualified immunity since this was an exercise of a clearly established First Amendment right. The authority to seize her ended when the first stop ended. The finger is not a basis for a stop, since it does not violate any law ("This ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity", Swartz v. Insogna, 704 F.3d 105.


can a cop legally pull you over for flipping him off?

Yes. The court decision in Cruise-Gulyas (link provided in the other answer) is flawed and once again reflects the extent of judicial hypocrisy in U.S. courts.

The court opinion cites case law to pretend that "gesturing with the middle finger is protected speech", even though any reasonable person knows that making that same gesture to a judge will result in incarceration and/or other sanctions. But the Cruise-Gulyas court eludes its inconsistency and only makes the conclusory statement that "we need not wade through those complicated questions now because these facts differ materially". The judiciary's double standard reasonably tends to discourage those who truly are in the front line to protect civilians and to preserve the law: the police officers.

Outside the judges' pretended bubble, the gesture at issue is considered obscene in the real world. Furthermore, the gesture is widely understood to resemble male genitals. Thus, it doubly fits the Michigan statutory definition of disorderly conduct or person. See MCL 750.167(1)(f) (defining a disorderly person as someone "who is engaged in indecent or obscene conduct in a public place", emphasis added). The court clearly erred in its pro-criminal allegation that "the gesture did not violate any identified law".

The officer could have argued that the driver's gesture (in the context of her patent violation and despite her knowledge that the police was lenient to her) reasonably suggests impaired judgment and lack of remorse, which warrants ascertaining whether the driver is intoxicated so as to prevent imminent or impending criminal activity. But here the court contented itself with case law regarding a "suspicion of a traffic violation".

Without reading the parties' briefs, it is impossible to tell whether the defendant officer advanced the preceding argument and/or cited MCL 750.167. However, courts are prone to suppress a party's meritorious arguments for the [judiciary's] sake of forcing unlawful outcomes.

Edited to add ...

Apropos of the comment by IllusiveBrain, Mitchell v. State, 320 Md. 756, (1990) reflects the judicial hypocrisy I discussed above. In Mitchell, the judge imposed a sentence of initially five years for the contempt of having

raised the middle finger right at me and pointed to me in a familiar gesture that is well-known to be a vulgar and obscene gesture

(emphasis added)

Although the Maryland Court of Appeals ultimately remanded the case for re-sentencing (namely, on grounds of due process), the defendant's gesture was perceived as vulgar and obscene not only by the judge who issued the sentence, but evidently also by the Court of Special Appeals that affirmed it.

That is, the lower courts in Mitchell found the same or a similar issue in a different way. The core of the appeal was elsewhere, but it was nonetheless premised on the same gesture of raising one's middle finger.

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    This answer is completely incompetent. You don't know what civil rights are, what the First Amendment means, or how the supremacy clause works. It's not even clear you understand the difference between "legal" and "things I like." Writing this was truly a waste of your time and reading it is a waste of everyone else's. – bdb484 Mar 30 at 22:35
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    @IñakiViggers The court argues that the gesture is protected speech and therefore could not be used on its own as probable cause for a seizure, which would of course trump any local law. Your argument citing the Michigan code appears to fail, because the court's decision preempts the law. Your dissenting answer would need to show that the court's decision that the gesture is protected speech is wrong. I do not think you will succeed - the court cites Sandul v. Larion, which ruled exactly the same way on exactly the same gesture, itself with more precedent on exactly the same issue. – IllusiveBrian Mar 31 at 0:29
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    That said, I've downvoted this answer because it comes off as charged and personally biased, not because it disagrees with the court. I think it would be appropriate to post a dissenting answer if another court has found the same or a similar issue in a different way that may overturn the decision in the OP case if it went to SCOTUS, or was at least edited to be less emotive. – IllusiveBrian Mar 31 at 0:34
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    @Iñaki Viggers I disagree completely. I am not missing the point, I agree with and support Miller In fact I would prefer the earlier, stricter standard under Roth, or the standard proposed by Justice Black that ther is no such thing as legal obscenity, that no speech, however vulgar, insulting, or explicitly sexual, ever lost First Admendment protection. That would be how I woudl rule if I were suddenly on the Court (not likely!). But that isn't the law now, so i don't here on law.SE, go on long rants about how unfair it is that Black's position ever carried a Court. ... – David Siegel Mar 31 at 15:10
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    @Iñaki Viggers Law.SE is for discussing and explaining what the law is, not what we think it should be. Your rants about corrupt judges don't belong on Law.SE -- perhaps on politics or some other site. Moreover, the judge in the Cruise-Gulyas case was not corrupt, nor in my view wrong. That decision followed the Supreme Court and the Constitution, as it shouls have. I don't want "insulting an official" to be a crime. Thatr way lies Tyrrany, and not too far along that way. ... – David Siegel Mar 31 at 15:15

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