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When Michael Elli of Missouri flashed his headlights to warn other drivers of an upcoming speed trap in Ellisville Mo. he didn't think he was doing anything illegal.

After he received a ticket for obstruction of justice, which carried a $1,000 fine, he fought back, saying the warning was protected free speech. Eventually prosecutors in Missouri dropped the charges, but now Elli and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a class action lawsuit against the city for issuing such tickets in the first place.
Should flashing your headlights be considered free speech?
Yes 47070 (94.8%)
No 2569 (5.2%)


"Those who use their First Amendment rights to warn others to drive cautiously should not be punished for their message," said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU-EM. "After all, the purpose of traffic laws is to promote safety, not generate revenue."

Is flashing your headlights protected free speech? It depends on where in the U.S. you are. Florida, Utah and Tennessee, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have all deemed that warning other drivers with a flicker of your high beams is protected by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Alaska and Arizona have laws strictly forbid headlight flashing in any situation.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 496 Comments
      Louis
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lets face it, many of the traffic violation laws are only there for the purpose of revenue enhancement. Anything that contributes to getting around these revenue enhancing plans states make illegal. Its okay for cops to use modern technology radar to trap speeders, but not okay for the public to use radar detectors? This is not fair. Also, seat belt laws. I wont argue whether wearing them is a plus or minus, but I do not think the state and/or federal govt has the right to say I must wear them in my own vehicle while driving. This infringes on my rights and I am not hurting anyone by not wearing them. Lastly, something should be done about the "surcharges" on traffic fines. If I get a speeding ticket, fine, I'll pay for that, but stop adding to the bill to support and fund other projects.
      • 1 Year Ago
      When i lived in san diego the radiuo station would alert drifers of planned speed traps, especially on I-8 coming down the hill frrom san diego state, it was tagged as no leeway Tuesday, iT slowed folks down significantly as they normally would fly down that hill going west! So if the goal is less accidents/safety the cops should be happy they are getting help!
      Bob Davis
      • 1 Year Ago
      Clearly the mission of the police is not to slow down the flow of traffic (because by flashing your lights to warn oncoming traffice, that's what you are accomplishing) but rather to be the armed highway robbers that they really are preying upon the motoring public to collect money. The vast majority of underposted speed limits and related overzealous traffic enforcement has absolutely NOTHING to do with improving highway safety . . . it is all about collecting money. I might suggest that you take a moment to check out the National Motorists Accociation for more information on this issue.
      BIG PAPA
      • 1 Year Ago
      therondor, your an idiot, the violation itself of speeding is not a felony, so why would flashing your light be one? I guess those with radar detectors should be charged too? So the radar detector companies are guilty of conspiracy too. The solution is called a radar defuser, I have had mine for 10 years and have not had a ticket in 10 years. it makes it so the cops can't pick up your car until your 75 feet away, and the radar detector tells me where they are so I have time to slow down. Don't know who makes it but it works.
      billcdaly
      • 1 Year Ago
      I agree that flashing one headlights to warn other drivers is free speech. If the REAL object of speed traps is to reduce speeding, then doesn't warning other drivers actually accomplish the same thing. If however the reason for speed traps is really revenue, then the police departments position becomes clearer. Ps tired of seeing people try to make everything democratic vs republican, conservative vs liberal, socialist vs bagger etc etc. It seems America is only happy when it is labeling and venting.
      gdp
      • 1 Year Ago
      Entrapment is illegal.
      jmg62
      • 1 Year Ago
      State Policing Authorities can't have it both ways. If their presence is to ensure the laws are being followed - and who doesn't check their speed when one sees a patrol car - then flashing of headlights serves this purpose and also protects drivers by alerting others to their presence. As well as ENFORCEMENT they've given more credence in words to mothers and nuns to their "PROTECT, SERVE AND RENDER AID" duties as being preeminent. Falsely presented to these "conscientious" motorists, and then go put up camera's and use speed guns while telling folks they were going to be moving away from using Speed Traps in order to appease Community's that had lost trust by/in their continuing incursions into Citizen's freedoms by making this very efficient manner communicating their Speed Traps a crime when it's to create compliance to their supposed goals. Now, if my foot mistakenly presses down on my light control, I too am going to be pulled over and written up and fined as a criminal for a leg cramp. Otherwise - and has been suspected for decades - it's all a scam to make up State, City, Town or County revenues. So, if it's the former and SAFETY comes first, then why is the later operationally the honest REALITY? The answer would need be that it's simply another ploy to keep the quota's up as long ago was determinedly denied by their propaganda. With all their obvious concerns about revenues - why not just use unmarked cars if flashing one's high-beams or flicking lights on and off is so damnable to their ulterior motive/cause? Free Speech or not - it's just another reason to doubt the Po-po's words.
      • 1 Year Ago
      a cop hiding behind trees pulling out on the highway to give a ticket, cut in front of my brother who was doing 55 mph and now I have 1 less brother oh yeah the speeder was going 63 in a 50 zone
      • 1 Year Ago
      Just another way to fleece the public for $$$
      Jim
      • 1 Year Ago
      Some cities in Florida were writing tickets even though Florida courts said they couldn't, the drivers who were ticketed won.
      bdgrizcp
      • 1 Year Ago
      To be fair, Florida very recently 'decriminalized' the activity. In fact I didn't even consider it could be illegal. I'm from Connecticut where it's been a common practose for decades. And the ACLU is incorrect. Speed traps are about revenue. Not public safety.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Florida~ enough said. A state that let peopl go for killing children, Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman but the same state that gave a woman 20 years for firing a warning shot.. What a crazy place to be.
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