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NEW ORLEANS – The ACLU of Louisiana wants to remind the Louisiana State Police that drivers are free to make obscene gestures at police.

In an August 14 letter addressed to Louisiana State Police Superintendent Kevin Reeves, ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie R. Esman referenced an incident late last year where a driver was pulled over and cited after giving “the finger” to a State Trooper.

The incident occurred in December 2016 near Rayville, Louisiana, on Interstate 20, when a driver was pulled over and given a citation after extending his middle finger while passing a trooper who was parked on the opposite side of the interstate.

“This gesture is protected speech,” Esman said. “Among the freedoms this country provides is the right to criticize the government and public officials, including police officers.”

After pulling over the driver, the trooper conferred with other troopers who had responded to the scene before handing out a ticket for public intimidation.

“Public intimidation” is a felony charge publishable by five years imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

It is defined, Esman said, as “the use of violence, force, or threats upon [a public officer or public employee] with the intent to influence his conduct in relation to his position, employment, or duty.”

“We appreciate that the job of policing in the 21st century can be difficult, and we hope your officers will focus on more serious and legitimate threats to public safety rather than on actions that violate the rights of the public,” she said.

The state attorney that reviewed the case in question declined to prosecute the case, Esman said.

Click here to read the full letter.