Warning Other Drivers Of Speed Traps Is Constitutionally Protected Free Speech
Driver in Florida can't be cited for using his lights to communicate
A judge in Florida ruled on Tuesday that flashing one's headlights to warn other drivers of speed traps set by police is protected by the First Amendment.
Ryan Kintner of Lake Mary, Fla. was pulled over and cited by a police officer in an unmarked car for doing just that. Kintner was at home when he saw a deputy park along a street and being using his radar gun. He got in his car, drove a little ways away and parked his vehicle so he could flash his lights at oncoming traffic to warn them.
He was stopped shortly after doing so and fined $166 for "improper flashing of lights."
Kintner, however, was not going down without a fight. He took his case to court, suing the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, with Attorney J. Marcus Jones arguing that "You're completely in your rights to flash your headlights. Flashing your headlights is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment. By issuing a citation, monetary fine for that conduct you've breached the First Amendment rights."
The judge agreed that the officer misapplied a law meant to ban motorists from flashing after-market emergency lights and ruled that the law does not apply to people using headlights as a form of communication. Thus, the court decided, citing Kintner was, in fact, a violation of one of his Constitutionally-protected rights.
Jones has filed a similar suit in Tallahassee aimed at the entire Florida Highway Patrol, which has agreed to stop citing drivers for flashing their headlights until litigation is complete.
"This stuff is fun," said Jones after Tuesday's hearing.
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