Taylor — When it comes to the middle finger, police might need a thicker skin.
A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that a Michigan woman’s constitutional rights were violated when she was handed a speeding ticket after giving the finger to a Taylor officer in 2017.
Its decision means a lawsuit filed by the woman, Debra Cruise-Gulyas, can proceed.
A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled 3-0 to affirm a federal district court's decision to deny a motion made by the police officer, Matthew Minard, to dismiss the case.
"We are, however, pleased with the decisions by the appellate court and
district court," said Hammad A. Khan, attorney for Cruise-Gulyas, in a statement Thursday. "Both applied the applicable law correctly deciding the qualified immunity issue."
The Detroit News separately reported in February that Minard was suspended following an FBI raid on Taylor City Hall, the home and vacation chalet of Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars and the house and office of a city contractor.
An attorney for Minard could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The appeals court's decision stems from a June 2017 encounter between Minard and Cruise-Gulyas.
According to court records, Minard pulled Cruise-Gulyas over for speeding and issued her a ticket for a non-moving violation, a lesser offense. As she drove away, Cruise-Gulyas gave Minard the middle finger.
The police officer pulled her over again and changed the ticket to a moving violation.
Cruise-Gulyas sued Minard, claiming he violated her constitutional rights. Minard claimed police were protected from personal liability, unless they violate a person's clearly established constitutional or statutory rights.
On Wednesday, the appeals court ruled the officer violated her rights under the First Amendment, the right to free speech, and the Fourth Amendment, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.
"Fits of rudeness or lack of gratitude may violate the Golden Rule," the court said. "But that doesn’t make them illegal or for that matter punishable or for that matter grounds for a seizure."
Detroit News staff writer Charles E. Ramirez contributed.