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Craig Kelley
Craig Kelley
Attorney • (800) 642-1242

Is flashing your headlights protected by the First Amendment?

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Have you ever warned another motorist approaching a speed trap by flashing your lights?  A driver in Ellisville, MO did and was ticketed for improper flashing of signals.  He chose to fight the ticket and refused to plead guilty, causing the Judge to ask him if he had heard of obstruction of justice.  Although the case was eventually dropped, the driver brought a civil rights lawsuit alleging that the act of flashing headlights constituted a form of protected speech.

In the face of ongoing public outrage over decreased privacy, this case alleged that the communication of flashing your lights was protected by the First Amendment.  The driver is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, who claims this type of communication is no different than communicating the same message by radio or at a local gas station.

Other states have previously addressed this issue.  Tennessee and Utah have sided with drivers and in Florida, a state law was passed to ban prosecutions for flashing headlights.  Do you agree this rises to the level of free speech, or is it obstruction of justice to warn other drivers of impending speed traps ahead?