Headlight flashing faces test as free speech in Florida

We read:
"When Erich Campbell passed two Florida Highway Patrol cruisers parked in the median near Tampa International Airport in December 2009, he flashed his headlights to warn oncoming drivers of the radar patrol.

Then, to his surprise, one of the troopers pulled over his silver Toyota Tundra and ticketed him for improper flashing of high beams. "Literally within one minute, they had me stopped on the side of the road," recalled Campbell, 38, a former electrician and full-time student.

In August, the Land O'Lakes, Fla., resident filed a class-action lawsuit in Tallahassee against the highway patrol and other state traffic-enforcement agencies. He seeks an injunction barring law enforcement from issuing headlight-flash tickets, plus refunds and civil damages for previously cited motorists.

Campbell's lawyer, J. Marc Jones, claims his client's First Amendment right to free speech was violated. "The flashing of lights to communicate with another driver is clearly speech," he said.

"The First Amendment protects all sorts of non-verbal conduct; it protects more than the spoken or printed word," Hudson said. "Courts have found that a wide variety of actions — such as honking one's horn or flashing one's headlights — are forms of communication under the First Amendment."

Five days after the lawsuit was filed, Welch said patrols stopped citing motorists for flashing headlights until the case is resolved.


I was once ticketed for doing the same thing in Australia but when I wrote a letter of complaint to a top official about it, I was told that no offence had been committed and the ticket was withdrawn. The Florida cops would have been wise to do the same with the guy above but they were obviously too pigheaded.

1 comment:

  1. I once got pulled over in Gympie (Queensland) for flashing my lights to warn of a speed camera van.

    He was originally going to book me for warning oncoming vehicles, so I countered with
    "What speed camera? I didn't see a speed camera! I was trying to get my mate in the car in front to pull over for petrol." (I had no idea who was in the car in front though - just a random car)

    He countered with "why not phone him"

    "no hands free, so I can't call while driving"

    "Well, I'm going to book you for using high beam within 100m of approaching vehicles"

    "I used low beam, see, light switch on the indicator stalk"

    "Looked like high beam to me!"

    "Can't have been high beam - did you see my (luckily inopperative) spotlights come on?"

    "no..... Fine, go catch up with your mate - if you hurry you should be able to catch him before the last service station"

    At which point he sent me on my way - and past another speed camera they had set up 1.5km down the road..

    They had a good setup there - a speed camera as you entered town, a cop 300 metres down the road booking people for warning oncoming cars, and then another speed camera 1.5km later after you think you've passed all the police in Gympie.

    But Gympie's always had a reputation for that sort of thing...


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