Is it Illegal to Flash Your Headlights at Other Motorist to Warn of Speed Traps? Florida Man Wins Suit that Allows Motorists to Flash Lights

November 11, 2011

radar.jpgAt some point you or someone you know has probably flashed their headlights into oncoming traffic to warn them of an upcoming speed trap, and probably never worried about the fact there may be a crime being committed. But is it really illegal? This situation is exactly what got Erich Campbell, a college student from Land O' Lakes, Florida, ticketed in December of 2009. Though Mr. Campbell felt he was just being helpful, the Florida Highway Patrol did not share his sentiment, and wrote him a citation for flashing his lights to warn oncoming of traffic of a speed trap. He told the Florida Highway Patrol at the time that he had no idea providing a warning to fellow motorist was a violation of any laws.

After researching the situation, Mr. Campbell decided he was not going to take the ticket lying down, and felt what he did was completely permissible under the law. In September he filed a lawsuit on his own behalf, as well as for every other in driver in Florida ticketed for the same violation over the previous six years. The lawsuit accused police of misinterpreting state law and violating motorists' free speech rights. He further claimed that there was no law on the books that would prevent him from warning other motorist of police up ahead. Campbell's attorney said he felt that police were misinterpreting a law that's meant to ban drivers from having strobe lights in their cars or official looking blue police lights. Campbell said that most of the tickets that were issued were, "Frustrated police officers who feel they were disrespected. When someone comes along and rats them out, they take offense to it."

Earlier this week, a judge in Seminole County Florida agreed with Campbell and ruled that it's perfectly legal for people to flash their headlights to warn other motorists of a speed trap. Also ordering law enforcement officials to stop writing any tickets for the flashing of lights into oncoming traffic.

At the hearing the judge stated, "If the goal of traffic law is to promote safety and not to raise revenue that why wouldn't we want everybody who sees a law enforcement officer with a radar gun in his hand, blinking his lights to slow down all those cars?" As a Georgia Auto Accident Lawyer , I agree with the judge, flashing drivers and encouraging them to slow down should be considered a good thing not an illegal act.

There is also a similar case pending against the Florida Highway Patrol. That suit asks a judge to order all law enforcement agencies in the state to stop writing those tickets and to give the suit class-action status so that everyone who was ticketed in Florida for flashing their headlights between 2005 and 2010 can collect damages. Though there have been no major rulings in that case, the Florida Highway Patrol and several other police agencies have stopped writing those tickets.