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Monday, July 22, 2013

$1,000 Fine for Flashing Headlights to Warn Motorists of Cops - Lawsuit Follows

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Amanda Warren

Did you know that you could be fined for flashing your headlights to warn other people of speed traps? Police who are hiding in wait, do not appreciate headlight whistleblowers.

This leads to the question - Is flashing your lights a part of free speech?

Right to Flash Headlights Becomes First Amendment Issue

The question is meaningful to Michael Elli of Missouri who did what most of us have done on the road - flashed his headlights to warn oncoming drivers of a cop waiting around the corner to catch motorists in a speed trap. In Ellisville, MO, he had no idea he was doing something "illegal."

He was surprised to receive a ticket for obstruction of justice - with it, a $1,000 fine. He fought it, calling his warning flash protected free speech. Although prosecutors dropped charges, Elli along with the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against Ellisville for even handing out those types of tickets to begin with.

Legal director of the town's ACLU chapter, Tony Rothert, aptly pointed out:
Those who use their First Amendment rights to warn others to drive cautiously should not be punished for their message. After all, the purpose of traffic laws is to promote safety, not generate revenue.
Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Utah have actually ruled that flashing lights is okay under the First Amendment. Arizona and Alaska strictly forbid the practice under any circumstance apparently because of safety. Who knew?

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Read other articles by Amanda Warren

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