Federal judge rules flashing headlights to warn of police is protected by free speech

pulled over
Photo via HumpDay Blog

Hey flashers, you are now protected under the First Amendment right to free speech to give the universal sign to fellow drivers that cops are nearby running radar.

Hailed as a “victory for drivers,” U.S. District Court Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis, Mo. ruled Monday that flashing one’s headlights to warn others about speed traps was free speech.

“In November of 2012, Ellisville Police pulled over Michael Elli, a retired West County resident who hadn’t been accused of a moving violation for more than 35 years, and cited him for flashing his headlights,” Fox 2 reported. “A judge later told him the standard fine for it was $1,000.”

The American Civil Liberties Union joined the case to help Elli fight the case in federal court.

According to Fox 2:

“If you’re at the gas station on the corner and someone says ‘hey be careful over there, there’s a speed trap’, that’s protected speech. You can’t be ticketed for that. This is no different,” said Tony Rothert, an attorney for the American Civil Liberty Union.

“In our view that’s speech that’s protected by the First Amendment and it’s also good for the public because it tells people to slow down, to use caution. That’s never a bad thing,” Rothert said.

The judge agreed, and “issued a preliminary injunction ordering Ellisville Police to halt the policy.”

But the department said the ruling was a “moot point” because it rarely issued citations for flashing lights.

“[The Ellisville Police] specifically took action by way of the chief of police to address this; to say that we will not arrest individuals, we won’t even stop individuals and we certainly won’t prosecute individual, city attorney George Restovich told Fox 2. “I believe there were maybe 5 tickets that were issued in a similar fashion in the past decade.”

Watch the report from Fox 2:

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