A federal appeals court said Wednesday that giving the middle finger is protected under constitutional free-speech rights.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit from a Michigan woman who alleged she was improperly given a harsher traffic ticket after flipping off a Detroit police officer in 2017, according to The Associated Press.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s 3-0 decision will allow the lawsuit from Debra Cruise-Gulyas to move forward.
Cruise-Gulyas says that Taylor, Mich., police Officer Matthew Minard pulled her over for speeding, initially writing her a ticket for a lesser violation. But after she gave the middle finger to the officer, he allegedly pulled her over again and changed the ticket to a speeding ticket.
She sued the officer over alleged violations of her constitutional rights to free speech and protection against unreasonable seizure and is seeking unspecified damages.
The court said that Minard, “should have known better” when giving the second ticket to Cruise-Gulyas, according to the AP.
Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote that while Cruise-Gulyas was “ungrateful” in the situation, Minard was in the wrong, according to the Washington Post.
“Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule,” Sutton wrote. “But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable or for that matter grounds for a seizure” of a motorist.