Road rage may get the best of us sometimes, but is it illegal to express this kind of anger to others? For David Hackbart, he found out the hard way that one police officer considered his rude gesture to be enough to cite him for disorderly conduct. A recent Time magazine article reports about Hackbart’s case in which he got into a slight altercation with another driver while parking his car and ended up shooting his middle finger.
Hackbart reports that he then heard someone else yell out that he should not make that rude gesture. Hackbart said, “So I was like, How dare that person tell me? They obviously didn’t see what happened. Who are they to tell me what to say? So I flipped that person off. And then I looked and it was a city of
Hackbart was then given the citation from police sergeant Brian Elledge for disorderly conduct. But, when one examines the law it appears that Hackbart may have been well within his legal rights regarding freedom of expression.
According to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legal director Witold Walczak, “The law is clear that people have the constitutional right to use profanity, especially when it comes to government officials, because that is a form of political speech. But despite that, we have police officers regularly misapplying the law to punish people who offend them ? that’s really what it comes down to.”
Being cited for disorderly conduct under these false pretenses is nothing new. Back in 2007 one woman was cited after she was overheard by a neighbor yelling obscenities inside her home when one of her toilets was overflowing. The neighbor was an undercover police officer. After going to court the woman was acquitted on all charges and given a $19,000 settlement from the city. Walczak believes the state police need to revise their training manuals and guidelines so as to make it clear to officers what type of behavior is legal.
Do you think Hackbart should have been cited for disorderly conduct after flipping off a police officer?
Should it be legal for police officers to hand out citations to people who use bad language or hand gestures in public?