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First Amendment Is flashing your car’s headlights protected by the First Amendment?

Discussion in 'Bill of Rights' started by tulianr, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    Missouri resident Michael Elli wanted to let others on the road know to slow down because they were about to drive into a speed trap, so he did what many kindhearted souls do: He flashed his headlights as a warning.

    Police didn’t take at all kindly to warnings of this 21st century Paul Revere. They flashed him a ticket of his very own for obstruction of justice. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case, but Mr. Elli has now filed a class action lawsuit against the city because he says that the city retaliates against drivers who exercise their right to free speech–and that the government is trying to prevent it because it doesn’t like the message.

    Under the law, obstruction of justice is generally defined as an attempt to interfere with the administration of the courts, the judicial system or law enforcement officers.

    So if a person is aware of a confidential, ongoing investigation and tells the subject of the pending investigation, he or she may be guilty of obstruction of justice.

    A former Key West bank officer pleaded guilty this past May to a charge that she received a grand jury subpoena, was told that it is a federal crime to disclose a federal grand jury subpoena received by a financial institution, but notified the subjects of the investigation. She faces up to five years in prison for the violation.

    But the line between obstructing justice by advising others of an ongoing investigation and an individual’s right to free speech can be very murky.

    This issue has popped up in several states where the police conducting a speed trap have not taken kindly to those who warn the oncoming speed demons. Courts in Florida, Utah, and Tennessee have all examined the question of whether the act is obstruction of justice or a form of protected speech and have found that it’s protected speech, and that the (headlight) flasher cannot be prosecuted.

    But when motorists who had been prosecuted but later had their charges dropped then tried to sue the police for money for the wrongful prosecution, they have been far less successful.

    A father and son in Florida who tried to sue the state of Florida in a class action lawsuit on behalf of all drivers given a ticket lost their lawsuit because the state government had rewritten its policy in the interim to train officers not to write such tickets.

    So it’s no surprise that the charges against Mr. Elli were tossed; winning a lawsuit against the city for filing them in the first place may be more revolutionary.

    Is flashing your car’s headlights protected by the First Amendment? - Yahoo! News
  2. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    My eldest son got ticketed for that in MA quite some years ago. Chose not to fight it, paid the fine and absorbed the points. Obstruction and interfering. One more reason I run with headlights on all the time. (They got him by seeing his tail light blink off and on. With the lights on, they can't see you flash the high beams.)
    Brokor and tulianr like this.
  3. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I always flash them to alert oncoming traffic. Never gave it a second thought. I will continue.
    gunbunny and Mountainman like this.
  4. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    I used to commonly warn oncoming cars of a cop on the side of the road, but I stopped doing it some years back after watching an interview with a State Trooper on a local news program. The question was asked of him, "Is it illegal in this state to flash your lights to warn other motorists of the location of a police officer." His answer changed my way of thinking on the subject. He replied, "No Sir, it is not Illegal. But I would add that we are not always looking for speeders. We also post ourselves along the highway during an Amber Alert, looking for the child abductor."

    While I realize that the odds are astronomical that the instance of you warning an approaching motorist of a cop would result in a child abductor getting away, I stopped the practice. Since then, I've also had many conversations with a friend who is an interdiction officer, who sits along a major thoroughfare looking for cars that fit his profile (and yes, I know there are many who decry such activity as an assault on our civil liberties, and there is some reality there) and finds a reason to pull them over, looking for drugs and other illegal activity. His accounts of what he has pulled out of the cars of seemingly innocent motorists driving through our small town has further confirmed my decision not to flash my lights.
  5. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I will consider your words. Amber alerts are sent to my phone by my choice. I would know if one were active.
    tulianr likes this.
  6. cdnboy66

    cdnboy66 Monkey++

    Round here I often use my headlights to flash and warn of wildlife on or near the road.
    last thing you want to see is someone get knocked off a road over an embankment because of a big deer or bear on the road.

    some roads have a cliff side and a wall side, and there are lots of blind corners
    Cruisin Sloth, kellory and tulianr like this.
  7. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Officers do a lot of stupid things under the Color of Authority, that are of questionable Constitutionally.... Like arresting someone for videotaping them, while on duty.... There is SCOUTS Precedent Rulings on such actions, but UnInformed, and Stupid LEOs, still keep doing it. It ALWAYS GETS TOSSED, in the first Court of Record. Judges do NOT like to be overturned, on Appeal, and SCOTUS Precedent is very well know, at the Appeals level.... Persecutors also do NOT like getting slapped down, by their local Judge, for trying to beat a SCOTUS Precedent. It gives them a Bad Name in the Court they have to practice in. Local LEOs eventually get the WORD, after a few overzealous Cases get thrown out, but unless they have Elected Sheriffs, for bosses, there is no way to get them to really stop, sans a Class-Action Lawsuit, which takes a BIG Pile of Money, and an Evil Schiester LawDog..... .....
    Mountainman, tacmotusn and Pax Mentis like this.
  8. Gator 45/70

    Gator 45/70 Monkey+++

    Funny how law's differ from state to state.
    You can flash your head light's down here from daybreak to dust.
    After dark you have become a hazard to oncoming traffic.
  9. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Flashing your headlights will keep drivers from speeding into a trap, which is the purpose of warning them. The police use our regulated speed limits as a means to fine people who travel, raking in revenue for their corporation. If for any reason the police are hunting a criminal, perhaps a case could be made against a civilian warning other drivers, but otherwise, it's just a bully tactic to harass people for warning others. Once again, we should look at the police as unnecessary --especially when they are enforcing speed limits in areas with questionable speed zones. Around a school or a playground, sure. Are they setting up near a heavily populated area with crosswalks? I doubt it. Usually, it's on the interstate or some back road with no reason to ticket a driver besides what a sign designates as a "legal" speed limit.
    STANGF150 likes this.
  10. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    "No reason besides what a sign designates as a 'legal" speed limit. " this is true in only one case.( where speeds were lowered for fuel consumption. IE: 65 or 70 dropped to 55.
    All other speed limits are determined by two things. Physics ( traction/ pitch/ grade/ speed/ typical weather ( snowbelt/ dry) and then down graded based upon access of foot traffic (likely hood of hitting a pedestrian.)
    Highways have the highest speeds due to very low foot traffic.. parking lots are restricted to speeds less than most people can run (15mph)
    The less access to foot traffic, the higher the allowed speed.
    ONLY AFTER these conditions are met, do regulations about speed such as fuel consumption/emissions play any role.
    It is the pedestrian who has priority at every corner, and car drivers who must make sure of their safety. That IS the way it is. Deal with it.
    tulianr likes this.
  11. DarkLight

    DarkLight I self identify as a Blackhawk Attack Helicopter! Site Supporter

    @kellory - you forgot to stick your tongue out...
  12. Byte

    Byte Monkey+++

    So the federally mandated speed limit of 75mph on all interstates in all areas featuring a myriad of driving conditions has what to do with any of that? Because they say so is pretty much all I can come up with. Oh and as a means to generate revenue, which kind of goes without saying.

    Brokor likes this.
  13. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I did not say 75mph was the top safe speed...now did I? Pull the wax out of your ears, and re-read ALL the words. ;)
  14. Byte

    Byte Monkey+++

    And I didn't say you did...nor did I say or allude in anyway to a 'top safe speed'.
    But by what you did say there are two primary criteria that speed limits are based upon. Iron clad, unequivocal, not to be questioned. That's the basic jist of your post sealed in type by, "That IS the way it is. Deal with it." Maybe I just misread your intention based upon your word selection. I was merely asking how there can be a fixed federally mandated speed limit of 75mph on all interstates regardless of whether either of those criteria you mentioned apply. I may have asked the question more precisely, of course.

    Ultimately, my point is, there aren't just your two criteria with a possible third that you mentioned (fuel consumption/emissions). And the preeminent criteria seems to be, "because they say so" with revenue generation a very close second...that's all.

    Brokor likes this.
  15. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    Too involved for my phone. Tonight. What I said is that is where the speed limits come from to start with. Other factors play a role only after these two. You will never see a posted road speed that does not meet these two criteria first.
  16. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    I am pretty sure Byte nailed this one.

    i don't know how many of you ever lived in Europe, or if some here at the Monkey do, but when I lived in Germany, it was a different style of living. When I drove, it felt nice knowing that there weren't police gestapo units waiting to jump out and harass me, beat me, fine me and jail me. Naturally, there are "speed limits", but they are sensible and only "enforced" in areas where there is high congestion of traffic and in downtown zones with pedestrians. Even still, the automated cameras do a fine job of picking up your car, your face, license plate and how many nose hairs you have. You receive the fine in the mail, and can fight it or simply head to the nearest grocery or bank and pay it. Easy. And there are no speed traps on the highways. Drivers tend to be more sensible and careful when they are in control and responsible for their own safety. The roadways are all clearly marked, and if an area is unsafe, it's plainly visible.

    Yup, in America it's all about raking in the cash for the corporate police and keeping YOU in your place, slave.

    Of course, they don't just hand out a license to drive at the age of 16 in Germany, either. Drivers earn their licenses and pay enough for them, too.
    STANGF150, VisuTrac and hank2222 like this.
  17. Byte

    Byte Monkey+++

    I too lived in Germany for a few years and driving there was a treat. Funilly enough driving over there appears to be a privilege...one that they work hard and pay dearly for. I just had to take a fairly easy written test to be granted the privilege of driving about the amazing German countryside. And yet they are left alone to enjoy that privilege with little in the way of interference by the would be masters that administer that privilege. I am not much of a fan of the speed camera system either but hey, it was only a privilege to be allowed to drive there anyway. Here, where we are guaranteed a right to travel about freely under the common law the vast majority will claim it to be a privilege and will actually yell at you when you ask them how a right can be abrogated by our would be masters and made a privilege with them as administrators... Bassackwards doesn't even begin to describe the world we find ourselves living in.

    Something for your pondering pleasure:

    By what legitimate authority? | The Price of Liberty

    Brokor likes this.
  18. ghrit

    ghrit Ambulatory anachronism Administrator Founding Member

    Travel freely, yes, but the mode is not specified. Automobiles are not a right unless you are on "food stamps."
  19. Byte

    Byte Monkey+++

    That's because the definition of travel doesn't specify mode either. Nor was it meant to. Common law is just what it says it is, common to the people and meant to be easily understood and followed by all. Not to mention...why would any of us grant the state any power over our personal property? Well we didn't. They assumed they had that power and took it.

    Using language to batter and abuse the common people with the law is a tool of the would be tyrant. And it's as effective as any tool invented by man has ever been.

    Too funny because it's truer than we really understand.

    Brokor likes this.
  20. VisuTrac

    VisuTrac Ваша мать носит военные ботинки Site Supporter+++

    I swear some days i think Kellory is HAL9000 repurposed as a bot for internet forums.
    kellory likes this.
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