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Motorist who warned drivers about speed trap protected by First Amendment

Anyone who has received a speeding ticket at any point in their lives has probably spent some small amount of time beating themselves up for driving straight into a speed trap and wondering if there was any way to help others avoid the same fate.

Interestingly enough, a Florida man took it upon himself to do just this, alerting his fellow motorists to the presence of law enforcement officials.

According to reports, 25-year-old Ryan K. of Lake Mary, Florida, was sitting in his home last August when he saw a deputy from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office park his squad car and set up his radar gun to measure the speed of oncoming traffic.

Ryan K. responded by getting into his car and driving to a location two blocks up the street. Once here, he parked his car and began flashing his lights at oncoming traffic to notify them of the presence of the deputy and his radar gun.

What did Ryan K. get for his efforts?

The sheriff's office issued him a ticket for failing to use his headlights in an appropriate manner as dictated by Florida's vehicle traffic laws.

Rather than simply pay the ticket, however, Ryan K. proceeded to sue the Seminole County Sheriff's Office for violations of his civil rights.

The presiding judge ultimately sided with Ryan K. by ruling that the applicable law did not cover using headlights for communication.

"If the goal of the traffic law is 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?" asked the judge.

Interestingly, the judge ruled at a subsequent hearing that Ryan K.'s light flashing was protected by the First Amendment.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office, which stopped issuing tickets for flashing headlights a month after ticketing Ryan K., actually welcomed the decision, saying it clarified an otherwise unclear provision of state law.

As for Ryan K., he says no hard feelings toward the sheriff's deputies.

"I have nothing against officers," he said in an interview. "But when you cross a line and get into free speech, I feel it's gone too far."

Stay tuned for more from our New York traffic law blog ...

If you or a loved one has received a speeding ticket, don't just dismiss it. Instead, consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Names have been withheld to protect the identity of the parties.


The New York Daily News, "Flashing headlights to warn of speed trap protected by First Amendment: judge," Meghan Neal, May 23, 2012

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