Nearly every Maryland driver has encountered a speed trap at some point. These are stretches of road or highway that seem wide open but are actually easy places to hide police vehicles. And these vehicles usually contain a police officer or state trooper eager to write a speeding ticket for drivers going 5 mph over the limit.
Of course, drivers pulled over for minor speeding could also be cited for any number of other traffic offenses, from failure to wear a seatbelt to more serious charges like DUI. Since no one wants to be caught off guard, some drivers like to warn their fellow motorists about an upcoming speed trap. But is this legal?
An interesting case was recently decided in Florida. A 25-year-old man was ticketed last fall for inappropriate headlight use because he had been flashing his lights to warn drivers about a speed trap near his home.
He not only fought the ticket, he went so far as to sue the county sheriff's office. His lawsuit alleged that his constitutional right to free speech had been violated. In a news interview, the man explained: "I have nothing against officers. But when you cross a line and get into free speech, I feel it's gone too far."
He successfully contested the ticket in a hearing last October. And at a second hearing earlier this month, a judge agreed that the man's actions were protected under the First Amendment.
At the original hearing, the judge made an interesting point about how warning other drivers of a speed trap might actually be beneficial for law enforcement and citizens alike. He said: "If the goal of the traffic law is [to] promote safety and not to raise revenue, then why wouldn't we want everyone who sees a law enforcement officer with a radar gun in his hand, blinking his lights to slow down all those other cars?"
Source: NY Daily News, "Flashing headlights to warn of speed trap protected by the First Amendment: judge," Meghan Neal, May 23, 2012