Flipping Off The Police Is Stupid, But Is It Illegal?
When the motorized car was invented, its main purpose was to get the driver and his passengers from Point A to Point B. Over time the car has come to mean so much more.
For many it's a status simple; an example of conspicuous consumption. For others it's a place to express their views on a variety of topics including religion, abortion, politics, etc., primarily with window and bumper stickers. There are also those who express their opinions of others through facial expressions and hand gestures, particularly the one-finger salute.
Giving the bird to another driver is perceived as the ultimate put-down. It can cause a minor traffic dispute to escalate into outright road rage which can lead to injury and even death of the drivers involved or of innocent bystanders. But it's not illegal.
As case in point, a driver on I-20 near Rayville, Louisiana, was recently pulled over after he flipped off a Louisiana State Police Officer. According to the Louisiana Radio Network the driver was given a citation for felony public intimidation and retaliation--La RS 14:122. The law states that public intimidation is the use of violence, force, or threats upon certain people with the intent to influence conduct in relation to their position, employment, or duty. Like in cases where criminals threaten witnesses who are going to be testifying in a trial. Public retaliation is the use of violence, force, or threats upon a person who is elected to public office.
The charge was dismissed by the state attorney who declined to prosecute. That's because flipping the bird is not illegal. Though it's certainly rude and disrespectful it is protected free speech. With a little pressure from the ACLU, Louisiana State Police (LSP) released the following statement: "LSP has tremendous respect for the First Amendment even when the citizens we serve choose to be vulgar and disrespectful. This was an unfortunate incident which will be used as a training opportunity.”
Maybe we should all just go back to using our cars as they were originally intended--to get from Point A to Point B. The world would certainly be a better place.