Ignornace of the Law Is No . . . You Know the Drill.

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Cops in Florida have written thousands of tickets to motorists for flashing their lights to warn other motorists of speed traps. Problem is, flashing your lights to communicate isn’t against the law in the Florida.

So one motorist has filed a class action.

 . . . the lawsuit says the FHP is well aware they are wrongfully applying the state law and they are doing it as a means of generating revenue. In 2005, a court order was even issued saying the state law doesn’t prohibit the flashing of vehicle headlights.

Campbell isn’t the only one. Since 2005, FHP records show more than 10,429 drivers have been cited under the statute.

In addition to seeking the refund of the $100 ticket, the lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $15,000…

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28 Responses to “Ignornace of the Law Is No . . . You Know the Drill.”

  1. #1 |  David | 

    Having read the statute, my guess is that they’ll claim this paragraph covers flipping your lights off and on:

    (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.

    Everything else is about who’s allowed to have emergency-style red and blue mounted lights.

  2. #2 |  captainahags | 

    That’s probably true, but is there a section prior to this one that defines a flashing light? From my experience with nautical rules, even the most basic terms are defined, and I would imagine that the definition could prevent the application of that particular section to motorists flashing their lights. However, we shall see.

  3. #3 |  Greg | 

    As I recall, New Jersey courts determined that flashing lights is protected speech, and the judges reasoned that motorists flashing their lights actually creates safer roads because the natural consequence is that people, at that moment, stop speeding.

  4. #4 |  Mike | 

    I read a blog by a cop bragging about doing this, made me sick to my stomach. http://copnattitude.blogspot.com/2010/03/flash-speed-trap-ahead.html Great use of resources. Cops and funding need to be completely firewalled to prevent perverse incentives like this.

  5. #5 |  DK | 

    It’s a stupid law in any case. Flashing your lights warns other drivers of impending danger ahead – be it a disabled vehicle, an accident, or, horrors, a speed trap.

  6. #6 |  Random_Guy_on_the_Internet | 

    #4 | Mike | August 28th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Yeah that’s a pretty sickening blog, as evidenced by his introduction:

    “Just a cop, here to help people that need to be helped, and smack people that need to be smacked”.

    That’s a cop’s job, right? Deciding who needs a “smack” and “smacking” them.
    :-(

  7. #7 |  Random_Guy_on_the_Internet | 

    And also the tagline under his little cop logo:
    “I’m going to kick your ass, AND GET AWAY WITH IT”

  8. #8 |  JS | 

    I thought the supreme court already ruled that flashing your lights on and off was a form of protected speech? Coulda sworn I read that somewhere.

  9. #9 |  roy | 

    I won’t be satisfied until I see criminal charges regularly filed against police officers who pull people over when they have no authority to. Kidnapping charges if they arrest — or rather pretend to arrest — people they should know haven’t commited a crime.

  10. #10 |  jmcross | 

    Copper Krupke definately has an attitude problem. His glee at scoring in his version of “the game”, matched with his disdain for the rules of said game, is simply pathetic. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has a problem with being videoed by citizens while he plays “the game”.

    And the mutual bootlicking in the comments…loathsome.

  11. #11 |  dad29 | 

    a form of protected speech

    I don’t know if it went to SCOTUS, but (IIRC) the case originated in Kentucky and yes, it was a 1st Amendment-based decision–in FAVOR of the light-flasher.

  12. #12 |  CharlesWT | 

    Headlight flashing

  13. #13 |  JS | 

    roy “I won’t be satisfied until I see criminal charges regularly filed against police officers who pull people over when they have no authority to. Kidnapping charges if they arrest — or rather pretend to arrest — people they should know haven’t commited a crime.”

    damnit roy! That’s the best idea I’ve heard on here in a long time. And I’ve heard a lot, I mean a LOT of good ideas on this site!

  14. #14 |  Jesse | 

    The cops have put up regular speedtraps on the main road near my house for years. Almost always during morning and evening rush hour, of course, that way they increase the volume. Several years ago I got so fed up on the drive home one day, I I immediately fashioned a rudementary cardboard sign that read “speedtrap ahead” and went back and stuck it on a dowel on the side of the road about 1/2 mile before the trap. I don’t know if it helped anyone, but I always wondered what would have happened if they caught me putting it there.

  15. #15 |  Jesse | 

    Oh and RE: my above post, I’ve also taken to complaints at various times, both to the cop doing the speedtrapping, and to my local city representative. The cop said, and I quote, “we don’t give a shit what you think”, and the city rep said “the speed traps will continue”.

    This is the kind of respect the tax-feeding class gives the taxpayers.

  16. #16 |  Mike | 

    And the beatings will be increased until morale improves…

  17. #17 |  Jack | 

    “What’s that costing you?” – I love how the writer works his/her own bias into the story.

  18. #18 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “Cops in Florida have written thousands of tickets to motorists for flashing their lights to warn other motorists of speed traps.”

    Hmm, another example of the proles joining together to help each other out when they know they are being fucked by those who are, theoretically, supposed to be serving them. I for one find this kind of thing inspiring!

    And Greg (#3) is absolutely correct. If people warn one another of speed traps, they also slow down. So, this should be good for public safety, right? Oh, but revenue generation takes a hit, so the police have to crack down. People should remember this case whenever police try to infer that traffic enforcement is all about, or even predominantly about, public safety.

  19. #19 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #6 Random Guy…
    “Just a cop, here to help people that need to be helped, and smack people that need to be smacked”.

    That’s a cop’s job, right? Deciding who needs a “smack” and “smacking” them.
    :-(

    That IS charming. Sounds a bit like Tony Soprano. So if I’m the guy that needs “helped” but this officer attitude errs and gives me a “smack” do I get to give him an elbow to the carotid and knock him unconscious or would that be considered rude in his black and white little world? Will he get back up and go one-on-one with me or will he get on his radio and yelp for assistance. This officer needs to understand that not all citizens are cowering sheep and some of us have the “nerve” and the training to fight back if attacked by a thug with a badge.

  20. #20 |  marco73 | 

    The really sad part is, in the past 6 years, the FHP has issues over 10 thousand tickets. So motorists either pay the $100 fine, or they have to take the time to go to court, twice.

    For moving violations, you’ll sit all day, until your name comes up. Then you plead not guilty, and the administrative bureaucrat then schedules you a court date, usually 30 days later.

    When your court date finally arrives, you’ll sit all day again, until your name comes up. Then if you happen to know that flashing your lights isn’t against the law, the judge will dismiss the ticket. Maybe the officer will bother to show up in court, being paid overtime of course, or maybe not.

    I’ve seen officers try to argue that they issued the ticket because the motorist flashing their lights was creating a “visual hazard” for oncoming traffic. But if the motorist sticks to their story, the ticket will be dismissed.

    Of course you’ve had your day in court, and justice was served, it only cost you 2 whole days of your life, and the officer got paid regardless.

    You also have to wonder, regardless of the 10 thousand vehicle stops that resulted in tickets, how many other motorists were stopped and had to provide, license, registration, insurance, and maybe enjoyed an old fashioned drug search for their trouble.

    An illegal stop is an illegal stop, and the FHP has had years to figure that out, but until it costs money or bad press, they won’t change the policy.

  21. #21 |  Graham Shevlin | 

    The FHP will continue with this policy until they get forced to pay a large sum of money in damages, and/or some of their senior leaders get fired or moved on.
    The cop’s blog is, sadly, an excellent example of triumphalist law enforcement crowing. The guy’s attitude seems to be more or less “I can do what I damn well like and we will continue to do it until some higher-level appellate court strikes it down”. In other words, the approach is not to do what seems right, it is to do what you think you can get away with. That is not the attitude that I expect from law enforcement custodians, but sadly it seems to be par for the course in the USA right now. I fear that this level of institutionalized contempt will continue as long as the interpretation of the Constitution continues to make law enforcement bodies pretty much unaccountable. When we start fining and jailing law enforcers for overrreach, we might get a change in behaviour, but until we do that I fear that abuse of law enforcement will continue.

  22. #22 |  Rune | 

    @Random_Guy_on_the_Internet

    What a complete and utter turd-sandwich that cop. But at least he’s honest:

    I couldn’t care less about published opinions either way. That’s something for the prosecutor and/or the judge to worry about, and as it stands today, they’re good with these tactics here.

    And this fallacy that it’s all about revenue is crap. Our agency doesn’t get any money from tickets that we hand out. I just like to go heavy on traffic offenses because it does slow people down–thus saving lives–and because it puts me in contact with more drivers and allows me to look and sniff around their cars for other, more serious offenses. It’s no different than stopping cars at night because they have one tail light bulb or a license plate light burned out. Does anyone really think we care about that tag light? It’s just a reason to talk to the driver and look in the car.

    (my emphasis)

  23. #23 |  Person | 

    @David That law clearly pertains to “lights that flash by design” as opposed to “turning one’s lights on and off” – any argument based on that law in reference to this case should be laughed out of court

  24. #24 |  Aaron | 

    What about flashing your lights to signal the driver in front of you that it’s OK to change lanes? Truckers do this all the time and use their hazard lights (more flashing!) to say “thanks” after the lane change. Do they get ticketed? This is a national tradition that nearly all truckers abide by (as do many motorists like myself, a former trucker).

    Stories like this make me glad that I live where cops don’t generally stop people for stupid things (we all know where they live and are generally on a first-name basis with their bosses) nor do the funds they receive from tickets go into anything but the general fund (with the exception of Cheyenne, our state’s largest city).

  25. #25 |  Militant Libertarian » Ignornace of the Law Is No . . . You Know the Drill. | 

    […] Posted: September 1st, 2011 by Militant Libertarian The Agitator […]

  26. #26 |  FreeWestRadio.com » Blog Archive » Ignornace of the Law Is No . . . You Know the Drill. | 

    […] The Agitator […]

  27. #27 |  Ticketing drivers for flashing lights near speed traps | 

    […] cops ticket drivers a lot for doing that, reports Radley Balko, the problem being that flashing-to-warn doesn’t seem to be against the state’s […]

  28. #28 |  DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Ignorance of the Law Is No . . . You Know the Drill. | 

    […] Read it. Cops in Florida have written thousands of tickets to motorists for flashing their lights to warn other motorists of speed traps. Problem is, flashing your lights to communicate isn’t against the law in the Florida. […]

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