Thursday, February 6, 2014

Flashing high beams to warn of speed trap is ruled free speech

A federal judge in St. Louis ruled that flashing your high beams to warn other drivers of an upcoming speed trap is a protected form of free speech.
In 2012 Michael Elli received a $1000 ticket for flashing his lights to warn drivers of a speed trap, which was a violation of an Ellisville, MO ordinance. 
United States District Court Judge Henry E. Autrey ruled Monday that Ellisville's "ordinance forbidding any sort of flashing of lights by vehicles other than buses directly contradicts Missouri Department of Revenue (which licenses vehicles in the state) advice that lights should be flashed to signal emergencies. More importantly, people have the right to communicate with each other on the road."  
Defendant suggested that flashing head lamps might be illegal interference with a police  investigation; however, the expressive conduct at issue sends a message to bring one’s driving in conformity with the law—whether it be by slowing down, turning on one’s own headlamps at dusk or in the rain, or proceeding with caution... Even assuming, arguendo, that Plaintiff or another driver is communicating a message that one should slow down because a speed trap is ahead and discovery or apprehension is impending, that conduct is not illegal.

Elli is represented by the ACLU of Missouri.  The group aims to have the injunction made permanent. 

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