If you raise your middle finger at a police officer in Tennessee, can you get into legal trouble?

Can You Get Into Legal Trouble for Flipping the Bird at Police?

Someone asked me this the other day, and my immediate response was to regurgitate something that I heard a long time ago - "it's protected under the First Amendment" but then I started to wonder if what I heard all those years ago was accurate.

Does Your Middle Finger Fall Under "Free Speech?"

After doing one of my classic ADHD deep dives into the internet, I came across an article from 2019 about a Michigan woman named Debra Lee Cruise-Gulyas. Debra had been speeding, and after pulling her over the police officer, Matthew Minard, had given her a non-moving violation instead. In essence, he "took it easy on her."

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The Michigan Woman Fought the Law

However, as Debra pulled away from the traffic stop, she stuck her arm out the window of her car and gave the officer a single-finger salute. Before even making it 300 feet, the officer pulled her over again according to reports. It was then that Officer Minard gave her a speeding ticket. Afterward, Debra sued the officer for allegedly violating her freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment and violating her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure.

attachment-Middle Finger Driver

What Does a Michigan Woman's Case Have to Do With Tennessee Law?

The case went before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where it was decided flipping the middle finger at a police officer is considered protected free speech under the First Amendment.  You may be wondering what a Michigan woman's case has to do with Tennessee law. As it turns out, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which is based in Ohio, actually has jurisdiction over Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Should You Wave Your Middle Finger at the Police?

Legal, or not, flipping the bird to any of our members of law enforcement may not be the best idea. That momentary self-expression likely isn't worth the headache that might result.

You can view the court documents from Debra's lawsuit against the officer here.

[Source: Yahoo NewsCar and Driver]

7 Major Red Flags For People Moving To Tennessee

Moving to a new state can be an exciting adventure, but it's important to be aware of potential downsides or challenges you might face in your new home. Tennessee is known for its vibrant music scene, beautiful landscapes, and rich history, but like any place, it has its share of red flags that prospective residents should consider: