Terre Haute, IN – An Indiana man has filed a federal lawsuit claiming his right to free speech was violated when he was ticketed for flipping the middle finger at a state trooper.
Mark May was ticketed for “provocation” by Indiana State Police Master Trooper Matt Ames on Aug. 21, 2017, according to the Tribune-Star.
Indiana Criminal Code said “a person who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engages in conduct that is likely to provoke a reasonable person to commit battery commits provocation, a Class C infraction,” which carries a penalty of up to $500, the Tribune-Star reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana filed the lawsuit on May’s behalf on Feb. 1.
According to the lawsuit, May admitted that he raised his middle finger to Trooper Ames as the trooper drove past May on the highway.
He claimed Trooper Ames “aggressively cut in front” him at a state road intersection in Terre Haute, Newsweek reported.
In the court filing, May said he realized Trooper Ames was pursuing another motorist, but he was annoyed because he thought the chase was “not a wise use of police resources.”
He said he felt that another motorist seen doing the same thing the trooper did would have been ticketed, according to Newsweek.
But May’s Facebook page told a different story. It was littered with incendiary anti-police comments and memes, many posted before he was ticketed for flipping off an officer.
For example, May claimed in the lawsuit that it was the officer cutting him off that triggered his response, but his Oct. 14, 2017 Facebook post implied something quite different.
“I truly wish we could be honest about what cops really do,” May posted on Facebook less two months after his ticket.
“In many cases, we cannot even talk about it. I dare you to try to exercise your freedom of speech with a cop. There is a near 100% chance he will pull you over. The extra bad ones will even give you a ticket for trying to let them know you despise them,” May wrote.
There were numerous other anti-police posts on his page which implied that May’s feelings about police had nothing to do with his one-time encounter with Trooper May.
Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, said May’s gesture to Trooper Ames was expressive conduct fully protected by the First Amendment, according to the Tribune-Star.
“While perhaps ill advised, Mr. May’s gesture, which in no way interfered with the Master Trooper’s lawful activities, was fully protected by the First Amendment,” Falk said.
He also said the state trooper “had no cause whatsoever to initiate the stop … and the stop represents an unconstitutional seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
May fought the ticket in Terre Haute City Court and lost.
However, he appealed and the Vigo Superior Court found in his favor, and vacated the conviction.
At that point, the Vigo County Prosecutor’s Office dropped the case and the ticket was dismissed.
Captain David Bursten, Chief Public Information Officer for Indiana State Police, told FOX News that as of Friday, the department had not yet been notified of the lawsuit, but said “it often takes several days” for the agency to be informed about new lawsuits that are filed.
May is a self-employed carpet cleaner who claimed he’d lost two days of income due to court appearances. He was seeking unspecified damages and attorney’s fees in the lawsuit.