Judge rules 1st Amendment protects motorists’ right to warn others of speed traps
posted at 2:42 pm on May 23, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
Sanford, Fl., which has been in the headlines frequently in recent months, has made news again, this time unrelated to a shooting that occurred there in February.
The Orlando Sentinel reports:
A judge in Sanford ruled Tuesday that a Lake Mary man was lawfully exercising his First Amendment rights when he flashed his headlights to warn neighbors that a deputy had set up a speed trap nearby.
That decision is another victory for Ryan Kintner, 25, who sued the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office last year, accusing it of misconstruing a state law and violating his civil rights, principally his right to free speech.
The law in the current case, Florida Statute 316.2397, was cites in a nearly identical case reported in this space last August in which another motorist, Eric Campbell, received a summons from Florida Highway Patrol for tipping off on-coming traffic about a police presence by blinking his lights. The text of the statute reads in part:
(7) Flashing lights are prohibited on 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 or except that the lamps authorized in subsections (1), (2), (3), (4), and (9) and s. 316.235(5) are permitted to flash.
Circuit Judge Alan Dickey, who presided over the Kintner case, earlier ruled that that state law does not apply to people who did what Kintner did, use his headlights to communicate. On Tuesday the judge took his ruling a step further, declaring that people who flash their headlights to communicate are engaging in behavior protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Kintner’s attorney, J. Marcus Jones, is on record as stating that the judge “felt the police specifically went out of their way to silence Mr. Kintner and that it was clearly a violation of his free speech rights.”
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