Can You Get a Disorderly Conduct Arrest for Giving the Finger to a Cop?

by dave on July 30, 2014

A man in Wadesboro, NC was arrested on disorderly conduct charges for nothing more than flipping the bird to a cop as he drove by.

William Dunlap arrested for giving the finger to a copWilliam Dunlap was arrested after allegedly giving the middle finger to a police officer. While courts have typically ruled that hand gestures are free speech, and criticism of police officers in general is absolutely allowed under the first amendment, that doesn’t stop cops from arresting people.

North Carolina’s disorderly conduct statute prohibits “any utterance, gesture, display or abusive language which is intended and plainly likely to provoke violent retaliation and thereby cause a breach of the peace.”

That kind of language is extremely broad, and assumes that the person expressing his free speech is somehow responsible for the reaction of another person.

In the particular case of a police officer who is specifically trained in dealing with distraught, angry, and emotionally vocal people, why should any speech somehow provoke violent retaliation from an officer?

That just doesn’t make sense.

The fact is that the standard for getting arrested for disorderly conduct is often little more than pissing off a police officer.

Mr. Dunlap was released on a $1000 bond (that sounds high!) and will be in court again on August 26th. The penalty for disorderly conduct in North Carolina, a class 2 misdemeanor, is up to 6 months in jail.

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