Giving Middle Finger to Police is a First Amendment Right Man Argues in Lawsuit Over Ticket

An Indiana man argues in a federal lawsuit filed last week that he had a First Amendment right to give the middle finger to a state trooper, and that his free speech was violated when the gesture earned him a ticket.

The defendant, Mark May, is seeking unspecified damages from Indiana State Police Master Trooper Matt Ames.

According to a complaint filed Thursday, Ames “aggressively cut in front” May at a state road intersection in Terre Haute in August 2017. May realized Ames was pursuing another motorist, but he was annoyed because he thought the chase was “not a wise use of police resources” and because he felt the state trooper pulled a move that would have got another motorist ticketed.

So when May passed Ames on the road, he gave him the finger.

Ames, in turn, pulled May over and gave him a ticket for provocation, an offense that could lead to a fine up to $500. Ames was “quite angry and loud” when he handed down the punishment and May “was concerned about the Master Trooper’s demeanor,” the complaint says.

May was later found guilty of the provocation offense, though the Vigo County Superior Court voided the judgment when he challenged it . The lawsuit says May, a self-employed carpet cleaner, “lost income” as a result of the two court appearances he had to make.

May contends that he had every constitutional right to flip off the trooper, and caused no harm.

“While perhaps ill advised, Mr. May’s gesture, which in no way interfered with the Master Trooper’s lawful activities, was fully protected by the First Amendment,” the complaint says. It also accuses Ames of violating May’s Fourth Amendment rights with an unreasonable traffic stop.

The ACLU of Indiana filed the suit on behalf on May. The Indiana State Police has not commented.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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