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A Middle Finger To The Law

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From a very young age, our parents teach us to be kind and polite when speaking with others. This is especially true if the person that you are interacting with happens to be a law enforcement officer.

One Michigan woman, however, decided to ignore this sage advice. Having been pulled over for speeding in 2017, Debra Cruise-Gulyas was given a nonmoving violation by Officer Matthew Minard - a lesser violation than she could otherwise have been given.

After the traffic stop had concluded and Ms. Cruise-Gulyas began to drive away, she decided to aim a middle finger in the officer's direction - seemingly unmoved by his earlier leniency. In response, Officer Minard promptly pulled her over again and upped her violation to speeding instead of the previously-issued nonmoving violation.

Soon after, Ms. Cruise-Gulyas sued the officer, arguing that the First Amendment granted her the right to make any rude gesture that she wanted. In a recent ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit agreed with her assertion. Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote that while her actions may "violate the Golden Rule," they are not "illegal or for that matter punishable."

The court also made the point that once the initial traffic stop had been completed, the officer needed to have a legitimate reason to stop Ms. Cruise-Gulyas again. Since her rude gesture did not constitute a legitimate reason, the second stop was also a violation of her Fourth Amendment rights and could be classed as an "unreasonable seizure."

While the actions of Officer Minard may seem like a form of karmic justice for the rude behavior of Ms. Cruise-Gulyas, it was nonetheless unconstitutional. The court concluded by stating that, "Minard, in short, clearly had no proper basis for seizing Cruise-Gulyas a second time."

If you have found yourself on the wrong side of the law, whether for rude gestures or any other reason, Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake can help. Our team of skilled and experienced defense attorneys are well versed in every aspect of the law and are ready to fight for you. To discuss your case with a member of our team, simply give us a call at (410) 927-5137.