Speeding ticket.

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Flipping the bird: First Amendment protects freedom of even rude expression

April 29, 2019 - 4:00 am

By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — In 2017, a police officer pulled over a woman for speeding. He wrote the ticket for a lowered penalty, and as she was leaving the traffic stop, she waved goodbye. Well, waived with one finger. How's that for gratitude? 
The police officer then pulled her over again, and gave her a more serious speeding offense. She sued for violation of her right to free speech. 

Technically, she didn't actually speak. Nope, but the First Amendment protects your freedom of expression, even rude expression. There are limits on obscene speech, but while coarse, rude, and - your mother would tell you - low class, the middle finger isn't usually meant as a sexual gesture. So it's not obscene by legal standards. 

So, as the court told the officer, you can't penalize a person for her rude, ungrateful perfectly legal expression.