Can a person be arrested for “criminal harassment” for allegedly “flipping the bird” to a neighbor who flipped it back?

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Can a person be arrested for “criminal harassment” for allegedly “flipping the bird” to a neighbor who flipped it back?

Apparently we’ve played into their hand. They stood in my driveway last week swearing and name calling, and once we responded with some of the same they called in a complaint. My so gave them the finger, which was returned, and Put a sign in his bedroom window facing their as yet unoccupied house, referencing the previous family who moved because of their harassment. He is being threatened with criminal harassment charges by a local cop who is friends with the neighbor. Said cop called me today and asked for my maiden name – does he need this or is this a pretense to hold a threat over us?

Asked on May 8, 2012 under Criminal Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It is entirely possible for a person to be arrested for criminal harassment for allegedly "flipping the bird" to a third person. However, there are numerous published cases at the state and federal levels holding that "flipping the bird" in and of itself is an expression of one's Constitutional Right under the freedom of speech.

I suspect that the neighbor is getting a friend who is in law enforcement to "mess" with your son and yourself where there is most likely not going to be any charges filed concerning the incident that you have written about. However, to be on the safe side, I suggest that you consult with a criminal defense attorney about the matter you have written about.


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