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Class Action Takes On Traffic Tickets Issued for Flashing Your Lights to Warn of Speed Traps

I have heard through the years that police sometimes ticket motorists who flash their lights to alert other motorists that a speed trap is ahead and, frankly, I never understood how that was justified. To me, the motorist flashing his or her lights is saying "slow down if you are speeding," which is a good thing to say and which further seems like it should be squarely within the rights of a U.S. citizen.

Nonetheless, police in many jurisdictions do issue tickets in such cases, and sometimes must seriously stretch the language of existing statutes to do so. In Florida, The Palm Beach Post reports (via ABA Journal), police are writing tickets in these situations based on a traffic statute that prohibits motorists from using flashing lights on their vehicles "except as a means of indicating a right or left turn, to change lanes, or to indicate that the vehicle is lawfully stopped or disabled upon the highway." Some motorists such as Dean Winton have successfully challenged "flashing your lights" tickets in court by arguing that this statute is clearly "aimed at stopping motorists from operating flashing lights to imply they're driving official or emergency vehicles" -- not at people who flash their headlights to warn of a speed trap (or, I would imagine, to inform an oncoming driver that his high beams are on).

Florida attorney J. Marc Jones estimates that over 2,900 Florida drivers have been ticketed for flashing their lights over the past 5 years (Florida police say the number is far lower -- just 82 people over the last 12 months). After he successfully defended one such driver last year when the court ruled that the ticket had nothing to do with the statute being relied upon, that client turned into the lead plaintiff in a putative class action lawsuit that Jones recently filed attacking this type of enforcement. Jones says that after filing the lawsuit, he has "heard from over 200 people who've been cited during the last two weeks."

The Palm Beach Post reports that Florida police have now suspended any further enforcement of "flashing lights" violations until the case is resolved by the court.

Posted by Bruce Carton on September 15, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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