The ACLU of Colorado announced today that it will provide free criminal defense services to Shane Boor, a 35-year-old Colorado man with no criminal record who faces criminal prosecution and a jail sentence for displaying his middle finger to an officer of the Colorado State Patrol.
UPDATE: After 24 hours of tremendous media coverage, on Friday, May 27, the Colorado State Patrol decided to ask Jefferson County prosecutors to drop the charge of harrassment against Shane Boor.
“Our client engaged in peaceful, silent symbolic expression that is protected by First Amendment,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The protection of the Constitution is not limited to speech that is acceptable in polite society. The First Amendment also protects expression that may be disrespectful, coarse or even vulgar. It’s rude to flip off a cop, but it’s not a crime.”
In April, Mr. Boor was driving to a work site in Jefferson County when he saw a state trooper pull over a car. As he passed by, Mr. Boor extended his middle finger in the trooper’s direction, a gesture that quietly expressed Mr. Boor’s disapproval of what he regarded as unjustified harassment by members of the trooper’s profession.
Soon after Mr. Boor arrived at his work site, another trooper arrived and questioned Boor about the hand gesture. Boor then received a criminal summons ordering him to appear in Jefferson County Court to answer a criminal charge of “harassment.” The charge carries a possible penalty of six months in jail.
“We will urge the DA’s office to dismiss this unjustified criminal case and we are confident they will,” said Dan Recht, an ACLU Cooperating Attorney who formally entered his appearance in Jefferson County Court to defend Mr. Boor. “The police obviously need better training concerning our country’s time-honored constitutional right to free expression. Their training must teach them to shrug off insults and disrespectful comments from the public. In essence, they need to develop a thicker skin so that our constitutional rights prevail.”