Flashing Headlights In Florida ‘Protected Speech’
A Florida judge has determined that flashing your headlights at an approaching driver to warn them of a waiting speed trap is a protected form of free speech.
This way of alerting oncoming drivers of the police which might be waiting just around the corner from them is a little secret drivers use to look out for each other. Police on the other hand do not appreciate it and will often write tickets to people they doing it. Drivers who get ticketed for this type of behavior are usually left with no recourse, however one Florida driver decided to fight the ticket in court, and won.
Now that a judge has found in favor of this behavior you can bet more drivers will be warning their fellow drivers of waiting speed traps. Of course police are nothing if not creative when it comes to writing tickets so you can bet if they want to find a way to punish you for it they probably will.
Of course you could also take them to court and cross your fingers.
The deputy saw what Kintner was up to and issued two tickets: one for running a stop sign, and another for flashing his headlights. The officer’s rationale for ticket #2 was based on Florida’s state law that prohibits motorists from flashing after-market emergency lights, even though it’s not clear that the lights Kintner used were after-market.
Ultimately, Kintner sued, arguing that the Florida law was misapplied in his case and that the Sheriff’s Office was violating his civil rights.
Judge Alan Dickey agreed with the plaintiff, saying that Florida’s law didn’t apply to people who, like Kintner, used their headlights to communicate. Earlier this week, Dickey amended and broadened that ruling, stating that using headlights to communicate is free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Kintner has also filed suit against Florida Highway Patrol and hopes for a similar ruling in that case. In the meantime, both the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department and the Florida Highway Patrol have stopped writing tickets for headlight-flashing.
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