Key Phrases: Traffic Stop, Seizure, First Amendment, Free Speech, Qualified Immunity
“Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule. But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable or for that matter grounds for a seizure.”
In this case, an officer gave a driver a break when he cited her for a non-moving violation instead of the more serious speeding offense for which he had pulled her over. In return, as she drove away the driver flipped the officer off. This angered the officer, who then pulled the woman over again and gave her a citation for the speeding offense. The woman sued in this 42 USC 1983 action for violating her Fourth and First Amendment rights. Officer Minard sought qualified immunity arguing the constitutional rights were not clearly established.
The Sixth Circuit held that the second stop was a violation of the Fourth Amendment because the seizure was not supported by reasonable suspicion of probable cause. Citing Rodriguez the court stated: “Any authority to seize her in connection with that infraction ended when the first stop concluded.” The court then concluded that the gesture did not violate any identified law and did not justify the second stop. Since both of these rights were clearly established at the time the encounter occurred, the court denied qualified immunity.
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