Do you flash your headlights to warn a driver that they are approaching a speed trap? Many drivers in states across the US have done this universally understood action to help fellow drivers slow down and avoid a speeding ticket and many have been ticketed for doing so. Did you think this act was legal or illegal?
Turns out that this very act or “expression” as it is referred to, may be protected by the first amendment which specifically references free speech. A driver in St. Louis Missouri and another in Tampa Florida sued their respective states over tickets received and huge penalties imposed for flashing their headlights to warn other drivers of an officer lying in wait down the road.
Last year, a trial judge in St. Louis ruled that a driver cannot be ticketed for flashing his/her vehicle’s headlights to warn other drivers that they are heading towards an officer using a radar device, aka a “speed trap” to ensnare unwary speeders. This decision comes after years of officers in many states ticketing those who chose to use the universally understood symbol of the “flash” as it was interpreted by some law enforcement officers as a warning to avert a potential crime in process. Not so according to the trial judge who ruled that the act of warning drivers of an officer lying in wait ahead was actually protected by constitutional rights, specifically the first amendment.
Seems this act of ticketing has been debated for many years in various states, specific cases in the “spotlight” (no pun intended) have been filed in Missouri, Oregon, New Jersey and Florida, and based on the decision in Missouri, the legal precedent has been set, so you should or may not receive a ticket and associated penalties. That’s not to say you can’t be ticketed and if you do, you may have to fight it.
So to flash or not to flash is your choice…choose wisely!
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