Flipping the bird has long been known as an insulting gesture. Although the gesture is sometimes considered disorderly conduct by law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit recently ruled that police officers cannot pull over and arrest drivers for giving the finger on the road. The court made the decision based on a suit filed by John Swartz and his wife Judy Mayton-Swartz against two police officers who had arrested John in May 2006 for flipping off one of the officers at an intersection. The officers had charged John with disorderly conduct, but the Court ruled that the “ancient gesture of insult is not the basis for a reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation or impending criminal activity.”
Nevada’s Laws on Disorderly Conduct
Nevada may be known as Sin City, but citizens who breach the peace can be arrested for disorderly conduct. To “breach the peace,” a citizen could do a number of things, including using offensive language, fighting in public, causing loud or unusual disturbances or threatening others. In Nevada, the fines for disorderly conduct range from $25 to $1000, depending on the misdemeanor, but a good lawyer can often get you out of the charge. In order to be fined for disorderly conduct, a court must prove that the action disturbed someone, that this person’s disturbance was reasonable and that the action was not suitable for the location in which it was performed.
The officers involved in Swartz’ case maintained that they only pulled Swartz over because they believed his use of the middle finger was an attempt to get their attention, but the court did not consider this a reasonable explanation. Disorderly conduct charges are among the most cited offenses in Nevada, mostly because an officer can use classify a numerous behaviors as disorderly conduct, as was the case for Swartz. However, there are limitations to an officer’s application of this law, and if you or someone you know has been wrongfully charged of disorderly conduct, do not hesitate to consult Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Gabriel Grasso at (702) 868-8866 for more information or for an evaluation of your case.