It happens all the time: Somebody cuts off a driver in traffic, and the motorist replies with a one-finger salute.
But what if that bird was flown at a cop?
An Indiana man admits he flipped off a state trooper last summer. But Mark May of Terre Haute, who was ticketed for the act, says in a lawsuit that the gesture was free speech and that his constitutional rights were violated.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday against Indiana State Police Master Trooper Matt Ames, the Tribune-Star reported. He is seeking unspecified damages in the complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.
In the lawsuit, May says that on Aug. 21, he gave the finger to Ames as May drove past Ames, who had stopped another motorist along U.S. 41.
According to the complaint, Ames “aggressively cut in front” of May at an intersection in Terre Haute, Newsweek reports. May said he was annoyed because he thought the chase was “not a wise use of police resources.”
May was issued a “provocation” ticket.
According to the Indiana Criminal Code, the ticket, which carries a fine of up to $500, is issued when “a person who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engages in conduct that is likely to provoke a reasonable person to commit battery commits provocation.”
But Kenneth Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, argued that May’s gesture to Ames was expressive conduct fully protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“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,” Falk said.
Falk added that the trooper “had no cause whatsoever to initiate the stop.”
The Indiana State Police didn’t immediately return the Tribune-Star’s request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.