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Court Cases Contend Continuing Courtesy Constitutional

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On: Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 1:18PM | By: Karen Cook


Court Cases Contend Continuing Courtesy Constitutional

Usually it is considered a kindness or a courtesy to alert oncoming drivers to a speed trap and this is done by flashing one’s headlights. In most places across the country this practice is frowned upon by police and, in some places, it is against the law. Recently, though, motorists have begun defending their right to communicate with each other and it seems that judges are supporting them.

In Florida, Ryan Kitner flashed his lights and received a ticket for his trouble. The judge in his case decided he had not done anything wrong and he didn’t have to pay. In Texas, Ron Martin made a sign and stood in the median to let other drivers know of the police ahead. He was arrested and his case is still pending. Michael Eli of Missouri also flashed his lights and was fined $1,000. Not only did District Judge Henry Autrey clear Mr. Eli of any wrongdoing, he ordered the police department to stop citing drivers who let others know of imminent speed traps. Michael Eli actually called the American Civil Liberties Union and sued the city of Ellisville for violating his rights.

What is the basis for these rulings? The judges believe, and I agree with them, that this method of communication is, in essence, an exercise of our right to free speech. This right encompasses many methods of communication and there is no reason flashing lights should not be included.

There are several issues on the table here, even outside of constitutional rights. If the point of a speed trap is to slow traffic in a certain problem area, then doesn’t alerting other drivers achieve that end? If ticketing as many drivers as possible is the goal, then isn’t that entrapment? What if my vehicle has an electrical problem and my lights flash on their own when I just happen to have passed a police officer? Or I could be in a new vehicle and could still be learning what switches do what. The point is, how can a police officer know exactly why my lights flashed, and how likely is it that he will believe I wasn’t telling on him when I explain?

Food for thought.




Comments

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gator done | 12:40PM (Wed, Mar 5, 2014)

"If the point of a speed trap is to slow traffic in a certain problem area, then doesnt alerting other drivers achieve that"

I 100 agree with you! I flash my lights all the time to warn drivers of speed traps, I look at it as common courtesy, to me it's just like turning on my lights when a funeral drives by.



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