Judge: Drivers have right to warn others of speed traps

Ready, aim, fine. (AJC staff photo)

Ready, aim, fine. (AJC staff photo)

If you’ve ever paid a speeding ticket, you probably think fines are more about generating revenue than improving highway safety.

Not so long ago, you had to drive on the sidewalks to get a traffic ticket in Atlanta, but, as budgets got tighter, police started writing more tickets to fund raises.

A time-honored way of warning your fellow man about speed traps has been to flash your headlights at approaching motorists. This is especially useful on most of I-16, the locations listed here, and anywhere else the sheriff is the judge’s cousin.

According to some police officers, flashing your headlights is illegal, but it’s not in Georgia, according to my hasty review of the Georgia Code, but I’m no lawyer and its possible you can be charged.

Fortunately for liberty and people in other states, a federal judge in Missouri has ruled flashing your headlights to warn other motorists of speed traps is a protected right under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

In 2012, all-around good guy and noted American Michael Elli was given a $1,000 ticket for flashing his headlights in the city of Ellisville, which sounds like the name of a city someone named Elli could get away with all kind of things, but I guess not.

Elli contested the ticket and the city dropped the case. Elli, along with the ACLU, filed a lawsuit anyway, saying his “freedom of speech” had been violated by flashing blue lights.

On Monday, the judge ordered the city to stop punishing drivers for using their high beams as warning signals.

In Florida, even though there is no specific law against flashing headlights, PO’d police officers were writing tickets for “misuse” of vehicle equipment.

Federal judges in the Sunshine State have made similar rulings, saying Americans have a right to warn fellow motorists of speed traps.

Now, what can we do about these red light cameras?

More news for speedy types:

48 comments Add your comment

safe driver

February 6th, 2014
10:37 am

Officers should also be in the open not hidden in the shadows of the roadside.

Roadrunner

February 6th, 2014
10:46 am

Anyone who thinks radar & red lights are anything other than tools to generate revenue are just not paying attention. If ‘Big Brother’ can use technology to entrap citizens than we should be able to use technology: lights, detectors, etc. to stay free.

Mayor Kasim Reed

February 6th, 2014
10:51 am

Some cops arrest people for flashing their headlights and charge them with Obstruction of Justice.

As for the Red Light Cameras, in Georgia, you simply deny it was you driving the vehicle and fill out the kourts affadavit saying such. They will require you to tell them who was driving the car. You simply give them some fictitious name and address and that person gets mailed the ticket. When the letter bounces at the Post Office it is tossed into the trash cans by the kourts who have no further legal right to pursue you once you fill out the form. Yes I spelled Kourts with a K for a reason. As in Kangaroo Kourt.

The Geezer

February 6th, 2014
10:57 am

Will police officers ever learn that they are law ENFORCEMENT officers and not the law themselves. They are paid to enforce the law as written by the state legislature or municipal councils and if any of those laws are in violation of the Constitution they will be struck down.

What galls me is the dead Americans that sacrificed their lives to secure our liberties and rights, and the fact that some cops would try to deny those liberties and rights due to their own sense of self importance and lack of knowledge or respect for the REAL law. Police officers are NOT the law.

SAL

February 6th, 2014
11:06 am

If a police office does pull you over for flashing your lights to warn motorists of speedtraps, the best thing you can do is to keep your cool, even if he/she places you under arrest. When you get to the station, call a good lawyer to bail you out. Then file the biggest lawsuit you can against that particular police department and personally name the police officer in the lawsuit. Subpoena as many documents about the officer as you can (number of tickets written compared to other officers, number of reprimands, number of missed days, etc). The judge will more than likely drop the suit against the arresting officer, eventually but it’d be nice to make their lives a living hell for as long as you can. It’s time that police officers stop creating their own laws on the fly simply because they don’t like something you did.

Bosstone

February 6th, 2014
11:37 am

@Mayor…That is about the worst advice ever. FYI…I am a prosecutor that gets to deal with quite a few of these situations. FYI…most of us hate the red light cameras as well. If you don’t like them, please contact your LOCAL county government (or municipality) and file complaints with them. By instructing somebody to falsify an affidavit, you are telling them to commit a felony. Please don’t do this folks…not worth it.

K-Ster

February 6th, 2014
11:52 am

Wow…such disdain for officers. Remember, they still perform public safety duties you’re too wimpy to ever sign up for. Some cops might be rouge, but not all. How about SUPPORT them and maybe they’d feel less hated while having to protect your hating @$$.

MANGLER

February 6th, 2014
12:07 pm

You get a speeding ticket because you were (wait for it) breaking the law.
The ticket for warning other motorists is easy to get dropped, you just have to show up and contest it.
Red light cameras are there because people keep having wrecks at intersections because they (wait for it) run red lights.
If you weren’t impatiently speeding and running red lights, none of those issues would be an issue for you.

Dazed and Confused

February 6th, 2014
12:07 pm

Ok,

Let me get this straight.

1. I witness a crime (murder, bank robbery, kidnapping, drug transaction, et al) – the cops can prove I was a witness but failed to report it to the authorities – they can charge me.

2. But I warn the perp (be it a speader or a bank robber – drug dealer etc.) of a Police presense (so I am warning the perp so he or she can “get away with the crime” – I have a right to do that.

THIS IS CRAZY…..

YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

So the court is saying it’s ok for me to snitch to the Police (in fact if they know I knew of a crime and did not report it – I could be charged) – but I can also warn a perp – of possible detection and that’s ok……

WOW………………

Captain_Jeff

February 6th, 2014
12:09 pm

Many places are removing red-light cameras because they’ve increased to likelihood of an accident. When I’m in my old truck with it’s massive trailer hitch sticking out like a spear, if the light changes to yellow, I slam on my brakes. Better to get rear-ended than get a ticket for running the camera light. I’m sorry for whoever is behind me, but maybe when the accident rate skyrockets the money-hungry politicians will think twice about their scam.

Dazed and Confused

February 6th, 2014
12:13 pm

ONLY IN THE US OF A.

Everyone want’s their rights.

Ok so I have the right to remain silent – but I don’t have the right not to report a crime but if I choose to warn a perp of possible detection from the police – I have that right.

I know we are talking about speed traps but where will the warnings end.

If I have a right to warn a speeder – why don’t I have the right to warn the drug dealer, the murderer, the rapist?

I need to sue to ensure I will have that right….

LOL :) “Just Kidding” – but do you guys see my point. If someone is speeding they are breaking the law – and to warn them is just CRAZY…………. But you have the right to do it.

LOL :)

FriEnd

February 6th, 2014
12:17 pm

I flash my lights to oncoming drivers EVERY time I see radar be used to catch speeding drivers.

Bumper

February 6th, 2014
12:21 pm

Before you call the lawyer and file the lawsuit first try speaking with the officer’s supervisor.

I recently had a minor traffic issue with an officer who was clearly in the wrong. I called and made an appointment with the officer’s lieutenant, went in and explained my side of the story and in about three minutes the whole thing went away.

Dazed and Confused

February 6th, 2014
12:23 pm

@FriEnd

Ok,

You’re my new BFF.

Where would you draw the line.

If I were a drug dealer – would you have my back?

WOW

Dazed and Confused

February 6th, 2014
12:26 pm

@BUMPER

LOL :) I am sorry bro….I think you have the wrong article. LOL

Ok

..and I have the right to tell you that….I am protected…

dobearsbare

February 6th, 2014
12:30 pm

If the goal of speeding tickets and fines is to get people to slow down and enhance public safety (one of the reasons for speed limits is public safety), then you’ve accomplished the same thing by flashing your lights and getting them to slow down, assuming your fellow drivers heed your warning.

But that’s not the goal. It’s a revenue generator pure and simple.

Fred ™

February 6th, 2014
12:30 pm

If I were a drug dealer – would you have my back?

Wow, comparing flashing lights to oncoming traffic to protecting a drug dealer. With *logic* like that you HAVE to be a brain dead talk radio listening 24/7 FOXBOT.

It’s not too late to free your mind, lose your ignorance, and educate yourself. Hell, you may even start thinking for yourself.

https://www.coursera.org/course/logic1

Forgotten Truths

February 6th, 2014
12:32 pm

Got a flash yesterday afternoon from a good guy warning us all about an a-hole sitting under the 675 entrance overpass on 285 east at the top of the hill. We all slowed down to about 75 and just kept right on going. That side of the freeway is nearly always accident free despite the higher speeds of motorists. I guess the “HOT” sign was not out at the Krispy Kreme so this clown had some free time to potentially cause accidents by getting everyone to slam on their brakes when they saw him.

Truly it is that kind of reckless behavior that should be illegal, not the speeding.

Let’s just go to a system when the only charge is “reckless driving” (maybe 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree) and the cop actually has to PROVE something rather than this crap with the speed gun that is simply about revenue and NOT safety.

Dazed and Confused

February 6th, 2014
12:35 pm

@Fred…

You don’t get it.

What is your definition of SIN?

SIN = many different transgressions correct?

Breaking the law is breaking the law – be it a minor offense or a major one – that was my point.

Where do we draw the line?

If you warn a law breaking – are you not a supportor of the crime they are committing?

:)

Bernie31

February 6th, 2014
12:42 pm

I always get a chuckle everytime I pass an officer using his Trusty Radar Gun. Little do they know that Long Term use of that Radar Gun will have a long term and lasting effect on their OTHER GUN.

Like potential Birth defects on their unborn children and performance issues where they expect the least. ALL due to level of radaition they are exposing themselves in its frequent use. My response to the Officer is always, How is every Little thing and how may I help you.

heh…heh…heh…….heh…..heh.

Billy

February 6th, 2014
12:43 pm

Money, not safety, is the issue here. If you’re flashing someone to warn them about a LEO taking pictures, they’ll automatically SLOW DOWN. Slowing down means safery, right? I flash others all the time. I dare some double naught spy to give me a ticket. I hate the ACLU but I’d call them in a NY minute if I ever was even pulled over, much less cited for such a egregeous misuse of police power for such a non-offense. Police are here to “protect and serve;” as long as you do that, you’ve got a friend. If you are being used to shake down poor people for money, raise taxes on the well-to-do in your area. Someone doing 90MPH in a 35 MPH zone needs to be pulled over. Any policeman citing someone for flashing their lights, for any reason, needs to be slapped down, along with the gov’t that instructed them to do it, so hard that their teeth come out of their pocket…

Bosstone

February 6th, 2014
12:51 pm

@Dazed You are mistaken about breaking the law by not reporting the crime. If you are an innocent bystander in a bank and it gets robbed and you don’t report it, you are not committing a crime in Georgia. It is a crime however, if you intentionally obstruct or hinder an officer during his investigation. There are also some specific laws that demand reporting (child abuse cases comes to mind where school administrators have a duty to report), but as a general rule you do not get in trouble for not reporting a crime. That being said…please do report violent crimes so we can keep our streets safe.

coj

February 6th, 2014
1:43 pm

I flash my lights to warn other drivers to slow down because there’s a cop ahead, too. I wonder if Dazed reports jay-walkers and those who spit on the sidewalk.

Brian

February 6th, 2014
1:54 pm

Is it not cowardly to sit in a shadow to tax us. Get a real job.

xxx

February 6th, 2014
2:10 pm

Paul Revere used his lights to warn, so will I. The police are there to protect the public, if I can help achieve the same goal, why wouldn’t I? The difference, the police doesn’t get to make a profit when I do it. That is the only reason they could have for getting so upset.

timeout

February 6th, 2014
2:48 pm

my lights flash all the time since i have a short somewhere in the wireing.

r_p

February 6th, 2014
2:51 pm

I flash my lights. I do not know why the police are parked where they are. There could be an injured predestrian hidden by the police car. There may be a big pothole. Of course they may be checking for speeders.. but regardless I feel it is my duty to advise oncoming motorists of a potential hazard just as I must move over a lane if they are parked on my side of the road.

joe

February 6th, 2014
3:32 pm

Anything we can do to keep our money in our own pockets is great…those cops need to be tracking down thieves, drug dealers, thugs and low lifes…not lying in wait at stop signs or speed traps.

partlycloudy

February 6th, 2014
3:46 pm

Hahaha, good. I once got stopped by a state patrolman on 75 when I was warning people about a state patrol radar use. Another state patrolman crossed the median and pulled me over. I had to stop and have coffee with him, while my dogs and cats stayed in my sports car. Fortunately it was cold weather. It’s all part of the game. Although I’m old now, no longer buy sports cars and drive a truck (OK it has a turbo in that big engine), I don’t have a problem with people warning people to slow down.

dobearsbare

February 6th, 2014
4:28 pm

Say you see two guys in masks walking toward a bank and deduce that they’re about to rob it. You go up to them and say, “Hey, might want to rethink that. 12 ATF agents just walked in there.” The would-be robbers think better of it and leave.

Have you obstructed justice here?

Marie

February 6th, 2014
5:09 pm

I wish someone had flashed and warned me of that fat slob of a Union City police officer that got me on S. Fulton Pkwy. I was polite but I wanted to tell lard butt “don’t you have something better to do like train for a marathon”? I mean really I’m going a few miles over the speed limit in a non-residential area in the afternoon where the traffic was so light that you could have had a picnic in the middle of the road. And Heavy D decides to pull me over and give me a ticket.

dalepues

February 6th, 2014
5:21 pm

Speed Kills.

Some people never get speeding tickets because they never speed. Their insurance rates are lower; they are less likely to be involved in accidents; and when they are in accidents the damage & injuries/cost is much less than when a habitual speeder is in a collision. Also:

” Worldwide, speeding is a contributing factor in about 31% percent of all fatal crashes, which equates to nearly 14,000 lives per year lost in the United States alone.1 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates the economic cost to society for speeding-related crashes is $40.4 billion a year, $76,865 per minute, or $1,281 every second.2 ”

http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=1001&issue_id=92006

I have been ticketed numerous times, several when I was maintaining the speed of the cars around me, another several when I simply had forgotten to mind the speedometer, and several more when I was in a big hurry. However, I have not been ticketed for the hundreds even thousands of hours I driven well over the speed limit.

Arrive Alive.

The point may not be one of safety; it may be a shakedown. I think it can be both.

jam-them

February 6th, 2014
5:21 pm

Get a LI or Blinder, both very good

Bernie31

February 6th, 2014
5:40 pm

Marie @ 5:09 pm – The City of Union City,Georgia followed by Forrest Park, Georgia are (2) two of most Citation Happy places where speeding Drivers should be concerned. No other Metro Atlanta area community has a greater frequency of incidence of citations issued for speeding than either of the TWO. Both areas are known for their aggressive stance even on the most minor infraction.

Beware and Forewarned anytime of the Day or Night. You are Not Alone.

thekimmer

February 6th, 2014
5:46 pm

@dazed and confused. Why do you describe fellow motorists one meets on the highway as ‘perps’? When I meet people on the road I have no idea if they are speeding or not so when I flash my lights at them I am not helping someone get away with anything. I am merely reminding motorists to obey the law which the police officer should really appreciate. Or do they WANT people to break the law so they can catch them…… and fine them…….

Bob Barker

February 6th, 2014
6:09 pm

Be careful in Bremen….I can set my watch by those guys sitting at the abandoned West Georgia Boot Camp. Speed trap city.

fes

February 6th, 2014
6:25 pm

“Now, what can we do about these red light cameras?”
Stop at the red light. Pure and simple. Running lights and stop signs is a serious problem and causes far too many traffic problems via congested intersections and accidents.

I’ve been a habitual speeder since I started driving 21 years ago, but I ALWAYS stop for reds and octagons. I’ve always flashed my lights as a speed trap warning, but am rarely on the receiving on end of the transaction…unless you mean the speeding ticket. D’oh.

I dropped my fried twinkie

February 6th, 2014
6:35 pm

Traffic tickets are revenue generators mostly. Go Stop REAL CRIMES committed by CRIMINALS. Keep my home safe from thieves and stop writing me a speeding ticket for 68 in a 55.

brockep

February 6th, 2014
7:00 pm

I flash my lights at other drivers who can’t remember to turn their headlights on in the rain (as the law requires). Seldom do they turn their lights on, the dim bulbs, but it amuses me to see their brake lights come on.

As to red light cameras, it’s all about revenue. If you watch the opposite street’s light go red, there is about a 3+ second delay before your light goes green. The cameras nail you for even a half second violation when no one is endangered during the delay. No marginally rational person blatantly and intentionally runs a light because being T-boned is a greater deterrent than a $75 ticket.

Jim Jr

February 6th, 2014
7:35 pm

A box of doughnuts on the front seat ready to be handed out works great. They seem to prefer cream filled but to be safe I keep a variety.

Range Rover

February 6th, 2014
7:53 pm

Just remember, those that you are flashing your lights at will not be pulled over unless they are breaking the law, and surely you’ll agree that 99% of the time one has to be speeding excessively (15+ MPH) to get pulled.

Also, you just may be flashing your lights at someone hastily trying to get away from having just burglarized a home, robbed a bank, or having just kidnapped a small child with the intent to molest, rape and possibly even kill..something that patrolman on the side of the road may have prevented had you not flashed your lights.

Think about it!

Mama Says

February 6th, 2014
8:13 pm

Ok for everyone who knows everything, quotas are against law. Municipalities do create police departments at least in part to increase their revenue, but the increase is a result of fines from people who plead or are found guilty of violated laws. As far as just being revenue steams- try cleaning up a multiple fatality car accident caused by speed, running red lights and or unsafe driving then and only then may you understand why cops themselves write tickets. As far as laws go, and perhaps the prosecutor would like to comment. In Georgia there is a law against being “a party to the crime”. If cops are sitting in a known “speed trap” documenting the fact that people are speeding and you flash your lights in order to help them get away with their violation of the law then you are a party to the commission of that crime. If a prosecutor or judge decides not to prosecute you it doesn’t mean you didn’t commit the crime, it means you weren’t prosecuted.

As far as courts ruling that you can’t warn of “speed traps”, speed traps are also illegal and have been for a while. Flash your lights and warn a violator that he is entering a legally ran enforcement zone and reap the benefits of your criminal assistance.

And have a good day !

By the way, I too hate red light cameras–they are unconstitutional as the state cannot compel you to give up your right to remain silent and say anything, that’s why the revenue seeking courts have ruled that you don’t have that right in a civil case, and I suppose, why red light cases are civil cases.

BobJ

February 6th, 2014
11:26 pm

I’ve read some comments that those that would be flashing their lights would be warning law breakers of radar/police speed trap, etc. ahead. Obviously if they are flashing their lights…they would be to people in front of them going in the opposite directions, thus they wouldn’t have a clue if those going the opposite direction that they are are speeding or not…if so, I can only see that happening of you have your very own radar gun. My point being that someone flashing their headlights couldn’t possibly know that they are necessarily warning someone that may be violating the law.

Praveen

February 7th, 2014
1:15 am

I am fine with red light cameras because they don’t get on your insurance record and the fines are not that bad. Plus a picture of potential accidents are on the record. But I wish they would have a warning system with red light cameras so motorists won’t sweat borderline cases.

I am not fine with speed traps. What galls me is there are enough bad drivers out there already that there is no need for speed traps. If you want to give speeding tickets, there are enough people who violate OTHER traffic rules like tailgating./changing lanes without signals, or texting and speeding, that they could limit speeding tickets to those idiots who engage in 2 or 3 violations at the same time and STILL get enough revenue. THis is especially true in cities.

Andrew

February 7th, 2014
1:31 am

Why would I want to warn someone going about 15-20 miles over the speed limit (those who get tickets) that they may get a ticket?

PrezOboz1

February 7th, 2014
2:58 am

4 or 5 years ago, bout 8:45 am I was driving up hwy 124 North. DeKalb police was training/using laser guns. I say training because there were three squad cars & 4 to 5 motorcycles. Motor officers were sitting/shooting laser toward northbound 124 (Toward Centerville/Snellville) just before Yellow River which the DeKalb county line ends (Northbound). Gwinnett County begins at the end of the bridge which crosses Yellow River. As I crossed the bridge I flashed my lights. A southbound DeKalb motor officer, clearly in Gwinnett (I was on the Yellow River bridge) pulled from behind a truck & pulled me over. He inquired if I was experiencing a medical emergency which I stated I was not. He advised me I was & could be charged with interference with a police operations but he would write a warning! I of course kept my mouth shut. I would LOVE to know if flashing headlamps are indeed against Ga law????????

[...] As I’ve said before, fines, especially stupid ones, don’t seem to reduce crimes. [...]

alsovic

February 7th, 2014
2:29 pm

I got a ticket last year for flashing my lights–the redneck cop charged me with “obstructing justice” and “illegal use of equipment” and threatened to “lock me up” if I said anything when he was writing the ticket. I appealed and won at traffic court. the cop didn’t even show up anyway.