Vermont Pays $175,000 Settlement to Man Arrested for Flipping off a Trooper

The state of Vermont agreed to pay a settlement of $175,000 to Gregory Martel, who was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct in 2017 for flipping off a state trooper. The incident sparked a debate on freedom of speech and police accountability.

Here are some key points from the case:

  • The incident happened in August 2017 when Martel was driving on Interstate 89 and passed by an officer conducting a traffic stop.
  • As he drove past the officer, Martel raised his middle finger, which was captured on the trooper’s dashcam.
  • The trooper then pulled Martel over and arrested him for disorderly conduct, claiming that his gesture could “cause a breach of peace.”
  • Martel spent a night in jail and was released on $100 bail the next day.
  • The charges against Martel were eventually dropped, but he filed a lawsuit against the state for violating his First Amendment rights.

According to court documents, Martel argued that flipping off an officer is a protected form of expression under the freedom of speech clause in the First Amendment. He also claimed that the trooper violated his Fourth Amendment rights by stopping him without reasonable suspicion.

After a three-year legal battle, the state agreed to settle the case and pay Martel $175,000. In addition to the monetary compensation, Vermont also agreed to review its training policies for law enforcement officers on citizen’s rights and freedom of speech.

This settlement serves as a reminder that citizens have the right to express themselves freely, even if it may offend someone. It is also a step towards holding law enforcement accountable for their actions and ensuring that they are properly trained in handling situations involving expression of speech.

In response to the settlement, Gregory Martel stated, “I am glad that this case has been resolved and hope it serves as a lesson to law enforcement officers everywhere to respect the rights of citizens.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Vermont, who represented Martel in his lawsuit, also commended the outcome. Lia Ernst, an attorney with ACLU Vermont, stated that this settlement sends a message to police departments across the country about protecting First Amendment rights.

In conclusion, the payout of $175,000 by Vermont to Gregory Martel highlights the importance of upholding citizens’ constitutional rights and holding law enforcement accountable for their actions.


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