Editor’s note: The opinion analyzed in this post was withdrawn shortly after publication and replaced with this opinion reaching the same outcome.
Last week, in State v. Ellis, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2019 WL 3559644 (N.C. Ct. App. Aug. 6, 2019), a divided panel of the court of appeals held that a trooper properly stopped a vehicle “after witnessing . . . a passenger in [the] vehicle . . . extend his middle finger in the trooper’s general direction.” The majority acknowledged that “there are a number of decisions from courts across the country [holding] that one cannot be held criminally liable for simply raising his middle finger at an officer.” Yet it ruled that the defendant’s conduct provided reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, namely, disorderly conduct. See generally G.S. 14-288.4(a)(2) (making it unlawful to make a gesture “intended and plainly likely to provoke violent retaliation”). Let’s take a closer look at Ellis.