View Full Version : Home and Auto Fla. driver sues over ticket for signaling police speed traps with headlights

09-13-2011, 12:25 PM

TALLAHASSEE — Erich Campbell thought he was just being helpful the night he flashed his headlights on a busy Tampa highway to warn drivers of a police speed trap ahead.

The Florida Highway Patrol didn't appreciate the help. Officers pulled Campbell over and ticketed him.

Flashing your lights is illegal, they said.

Claiming no such law exists, Campbell, 38, of Land O'Lakes, got angry. Now he wants to get even: He filed a lawsuit on behalf of every other driver in Florida ticketed for the same violation over the past six years, accusing police of misinterpreting state law and violating motorists' free speech rights.

"This is a pattern, and it has mostly to do with frustrated police officers who feel they were disrespected," Campbell said. "When someone comes along and rats them out, they take offense to it."

Capt. Mark Welch, a spokesman for the FHP, cited a law that says "flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles" except for turn signals. Welch said he could not comment in detail because of the pending legal case.

Campbell and his attorney, J. Marc Jones of Oviedo, say police are misinterpreting a law that's meant to ban drivers from having strobe lights in their cars or official-looking blue police lights.

Soon after Campbell sued the state, the Highway Patrol on Aug. 29 ordered all troopers to stop issuing tickets to motorists who use headlights as a signal to other drivers.

"You are directed to suspend enforcement action for this type of driver behavior," said the memo from Grady Garrick, acting deputy director of patrol operations.

Campbell, a student at St. Petersburg College's Tarpon Springs campus, was driving his Toyota Tundra pickup on the Veterans Expressway in Tampa on a Monday night, Dec. 7, 2009, when he spotted two black state trooper cruisers parked in the median.

When he saw them, he said, he flashed his headlights a few times to alert motorists headed in the opposite direction.

"Within 60 seconds, they had me pulled over," Campbell said.

The ticket was for $115, but Hillsborough County Judge Raul Palomino dismissed it, and Campbell never paid a dime.

Campbell's lawsuit, filed in circuit court in Tallahassee, cites similar cases in Escambia, Osceola, Seminole and St. Lucie counties in which tickets for flashing were all dismissed by judges.

"In each of these examples," the lawsuit claims, "Florida courts properly found that (the law) does not prohibit the flashing of headlights as a means of communication," which the suit calls "a right of free speech."

The lawsuit estimates that 2,400 motorists in Florida were cited for headlight-flashing between 2005 and 2010. It asks a circuit judge to certify the case as a class action on behalf of those other motorists, which means that if the state loses, it could be forced to return a lot of money.

The state has not formally answered the lawsuit yet.

All of the defendants in the case report to either Gov. Rick Scott or Scott and the three-member Cabinet: highway safety chief Julie Jones; Col. David Brierton, chief of the Highway Patrol; and Ananth Prasad, secretary of the Department of Transportation.

Jones noted that a different section of law allows drivers to flash their headlights at night when they're passing another vehicle. "Visible blinking of the headlamps," is how the law puts it.

Asked about that apparent contradiction, the FHP's Welch said: "This is something that's going to be dealt with in the litigation. It's not something I can comment on."

Jones said he has been besieged with calls from motorists after the case got a burst of attention on several TV stations, and it has attracted attention in out-of-the-way places, too.

In an editorial headlined "Keep flashing legal," the Panama City News Herald said: "Campbell and other flashers actually encourage motorists to obey the law. Shouldn't that be FHP's only concern?"

After Campbell got his ticket, he did some research online and discovered Alexis Cason, 22, of suburban Orlando, who received a similar ticket in 2005, hired the same lawyer (Jones) and won her case.

"For me, this has to do more with the principle than the cost," Campbell said.

09-13-2011, 12:30 PM
I hope they didn't foul up and dismiss all the convicted "flashers." That would be bad.

09-13-2011, 12:30 PM
What would the charge be anyway? Obstruction of justice?

09-13-2011, 12:34 PM
I do that all of the time.

If I meet a car within 1 mile of a speed trap, I always flick my lights a couple of times as a warning. I appreciate it very much when others do as well.

I was taught in Driver's Ed to flash lights to warn oncoming drivers of impending obstacles or dangers. I'd argue that a speed trap can cause someone to stomp their breaks and could potentially cause an accident.

09-13-2011, 12:36 PM
What would the charge be anyway? Obstruction of justice?

Obstruction of revenue

09-13-2011, 12:40 PM
I agree, when the law is enforced like that, it is butthurtt police officers.

09-13-2011, 12:41 PM
Do they have a third police car set up down the road to catch drivers who are flashing their high beams to warn those who flash their high beams at speed traps?

09-13-2011, 12:42 PM
Do they have a third police car set up down the road to catch drivers who are flashing their high beams to warn those who flash their high beams at speed traps?

Speed trap warning trap

09-13-2011, 12:43 PM
Driving down Highway O just south of Lexington MO, headed to I-70. Late at night. I come over a hill and the oncoming car is flashing his lights at me. I slowed way down due to his warning and as I crested the hill, a deer was standing in the middle of the road. Thanks to the "heads up" warning of the passing driver, I avoided slamming into the deer and possibly hitting the ditch and rolling over. That stretch of road is a 2 lane highway with no shoulder full of hills and curves. Mr. gblowfish knows about this stretch of highway.

Seems that it would be hard to prove why someone might flash their bright lights. Could be an accident by hitting the blinker arm or could be a warning of something ahead that might be dangerous.

Also happened one other time when there was a bad wreck and traffic was at a dead stop over a hill where I couldn't see it until too late. If not for the warning there, I might have been going at the speed limit when I came upon it and ended up crashing into the parked cars sitting on the highway.

I hope the kid wins his suit.

09-13-2011, 12:43 PM
Obstruction of revenue

Yep. We can't have that, now, can we? Fucking thieves.

09-13-2011, 01:22 PM
I was reading about this case a little while ago. It seems that there are a number of states where flashing your lights is indeed illegal. I'll see if I can find the list.

09-13-2011, 01:22 PM

United States

In the United States, the legality of headlight flashing varies from state to state. Historically, law enforcement officers give citations for headlight flashing under three types of laws: (1) laws prohibiting a person from obstructing a police investigation, (2) laws prohibiting a person from having flashing lights on their vehicle, and (3) laws prohibiting shining a vehicle’s high beams at oncoming traffic. The specific language of each law varies by state along with courts’ holdings on whether their respective laws prohibit headlight flashing. Additionally, although not legally binding, the state driver’s manual of some states suggests flashing high beams under specific scenarios (e.g. if an oncoming vehicle is using its high beams, driver’s manuals suggest a motorist flash his or her high beams).[19][20]

In Alaska, a State Trooper has probable cause to stop a driver who flashes a vehicle’s high beams based upon a violation of 13 AAC 04.020(e)(1).[21]

In Arizona, flashing high beams or headlights is a violation of A.R.S. Section 28-942.1 (Failure to Dim Headlights).[22]

In California, headlight flashing is legal in some situations and illegal in others. It is legal for a driver to flash his headlights to indicate intention to pass on a road which does not allow passing on the right. However, headlight flashing on multiple-lane highways is illegal.[7]

Florida state statute indicates that "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".[23] This has been used as a basis for issuing a moving violation with a $90 fine to drivers who flash their headlights to warn oncoming drivers of speed traps; some police and at least one journalist believes that the law applied to those who manually flash their high beams.[23]

In Maryland, police officers ticket drivers for flashing car headlights under a law which prohibits driving in a vehicle with flashing lights and laws prohibiting "obstructing a police investigation".[12] The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland challenges the current interpretation of the law, contending the law refers to an adjective and not a verb; automatic flashing lights on non-emergency vehicles are illegal, but the act by a driver of flashing a vehicle's headlamps is not.[12] Though ticketing was common in the 1990s, Maryland and Washington, D.C. police say that flashing one's headlights was not against the law in either place.[24]

In Massachusetts, the practice of headlight flashing is technically not forbidden. A clever police officer though can ask a motorist if they were flashing their lights to warn oncoming motorists of police. If the motorist says no, the officer can ask if the vehicle has defective lights—which is a violation of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 7.[25]

In New Jersey, drivers are allowed to flash their headlights to warn approaching drivers about a speed trap ahead.[26] In 1999, The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division held that a statute limiting how far high beams may project is not violated when a motorist flashes his or her high beams to warn oncoming motorists of radar. The Court also concluded that a stop by a police officer based upon high beam flashing is also improper.[27]

In New York, headlight flashing is not illegal. New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375 [3] requires that headlamps "shall be operated so that dazzling light does not interfere with the driver of the approaching vehicle".[28] In 1994, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division held that flipping or flicking high beams at approaching vehicles is insufficient to cause the "dazzling lights" prohibited under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375 [3].[29] In 2009, the New York Supreme Court held that the flashing of lights alone is not a violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 375 [3], that stopping a vehicle based upon that is illegal, and all evidence gather as a result of the illegal stop should be suppressed.[30]

In North Dakota, when an oncoming vehicle is within 500 feet, high-beam flashing for any length of time (including momentary flashes) and for any purpose at night is illegal under N.D.C.C. Section 39-21-21.[31]

In Ohio, courts have held that the act of flashing one's headlights so as to alert oncoming drivers of a radar trap does not constitute the offense of obstructing a police officer in the performance of his duties, where there was no proof that the warned vehicles were speeding prior to the warning.[32][33] In another case, where a driver received a citation under an ordinance prohibiting flashing lights on a vehicle, a court held that the ordinance referred to the noun of flashing lights and did not prohibit the verb of flashing the headlights on a vehicle.[34] In a difference case, a court held that a momentary flick of the high beams is not a violation of Ohio R.C. 4513.15[35] (which prohibits drivers from aiming glaring rays into the eyes of oncoming drivers).[36]

In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ruled that flashing one's highbeams during the day to warn of speed traps is legal.[37][38]

In Tennessee, flashing headlights to warn oncoming traffic of a police car ahead is protected free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[39]

In Virginia, headlight flashing to warn of police activity is not illegal, even though other evasion techniques like radar detectors are outlawed.[40]

In Washington, high beam flashing is illegal.[41] Washington law prohibits flashing one's high beams within 400 feet of another vehicle, including using them to signal for any reason.[42] Under section 46.37.230 of the Revised Code of Washington, flashing one's headlights illegally may result in a $124 traffic infraction.[43]

In Wisconsin, the law allows a vehicle operator to intermittently flash a vehicle’s highbeam headlamps at an oncoming vehicle whose highbeam headlamps are lit.[44][45]

09-13-2011, 01:33 PM
In Washington, high beam flashing is illegal.[41] Washington law prohibits flashing one's high beams within 400 feet of another vehicle, including using them to signal for any reason.[42] Under section 46.37.230 of the Revised Code of Washington, flashing one's headlights illegally may result in a $124 traffic infraction.[43]

What a shock. :rolleyes:

In the old days, I usually saw people warn of speed traps by turning their lights off momentarily instead of flashing high beams. Tough to do now since my main vehicles have automatic head lights.

09-13-2011, 01:46 PM
Truckers do it all the time as a thank you for letting me pass.

09-13-2011, 01:47 PM
I routinely flash my brights to warn of upcoming wildlife or emergencies.

09-13-2011, 01:50 PM
Truckers do it all the time as a thank you for letting me pass.

I will do it for truckers also passing me, letting them know the trailer has cleared my front end so they can pull over.

I flash all the time for speed traps, and appreciate it when others do it for me too.

09-13-2011, 01:53 PM
I routinely flash my brights to warn of upcoming wildlife or emergencies.



09-13-2011, 01:54 PM
The dude should consider himself lucky he escaped with his life.

Some people are never satisfied.


Radar Chief
09-13-2011, 02:02 PM
Obstruction of revenue

If you only knew how true that statement is.

Dave Lane
09-13-2011, 02:03 PM
Well thats OK, yeah thats just fine flash your headlights to warn other people yeah thats just fucking great you cock sucking $##@%&!^^#%$^&*@


Dave Lane
09-13-2011, 02:05 PM
Some may not get this reference so here you go...

<iframe width="420" height="345" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/zEM5HJFqV7w" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

09-13-2011, 02:05 PM
Well thats OK, yeah thats just fine flash your headlights to warn other people yeah thats just ****ing great you cock sucking $##@%&!^^#%$^&*@



09-13-2011, 02:07 PM
In before CrazyCoffee

siberian khatru
09-13-2011, 02:12 PM
You might be interested in the letter we received in response:

Headlight flashers can let criminals escape justice

May I offer a few thoughts for consideration concerning the tickets that some motorists are receiving for flashing their headlights to warn oncoming motorists of a law enforcement officer ahead ("Keep flashing legal," Our View, Sept. 1)?

Most troopers feel like this motorist is impairing the appropriate job functions of the officers and assisting other violators in avoiding the officer. This is a valid assumption. Is it a valid violation? It may be a stretch. It may be even somewhat of a get-even attitude.

But let us look at the reasons why this is a bad idea.

As a trooper a few years back, I clocked a speeding violator and ultimately determined the occupants of the vehicle had committed a murder two hours earlier. If another motorist had signaled my presence would he have gotten away?

A trooper friend of mine stopped a violator for speeding, and as he approached the vehicle the trooper observed a very young female tied with rope in the back seat. The trooper was then shot in the chest. Thanks to his bulletproof vest the .357 magnum bullet was stopped and the trooper, seriously injured, followed the car until assisting officers apprehended the kidnapper and rescued the child.

Had an oncoming motorist signaled the presence of the officer and the kidnapper slowed to the speed limit and eased on by the trooper unnoticed, would the outcome have been much different? I think so.

Hundreds of wanted criminals, drug transporters, unlicensed habitual offenders and reckless drivers are apprehended each year from a simple traffic stop.

Headlight flashers warning other violators to beware are in fact deterring law enforcement officers’ ability to make highways safer for everyone, including the flasher.

Less than 25 percent of the drivers you meet get more than 90 percent of the speeding tickets. Why would you want to help the very person who may injure or kill your loved ones or friends? Obviously the flasher was obeying the traffic laws because they weren’t stopped. Let the high-rolling jerk get the ticket he deserves.

I listened to a local talk show host rant about this questionable interpretation of a traffic statute for an hour trying to pass off his personal vendetta against the Florida Highway Patrol as his championing of a person’s right to be foolish.

Get off the revenue-generating complaint. The Florida Highway Patrol does not get anything from the tickets it writes. The money is distributed between the county, state and other departments. The Highway Patrol may be paying into other funds more than it is getting by begging the governor and the Legislature for funds to operate. No raises now for how many years? Would you do it?


Panama City


09-13-2011, 02:15 PM
Uh huh


09-13-2011, 02:23 PM
They have been doing that in Wichita for about a decade now, and it is serious bidness to LE here. They charge you with aiding and abetting, which is worse than a speeding ticket. Almost nobody will give a warning flash anymore because of it.

09-13-2011, 02:36 PM
That's a weak argument from the Highway Patrol.

They obviously can't find every criminal on the highway this way. For every actual criminal they apprehend due to a stop, how many normal citizens are ticketed? 10? 25? 50? 100?

If they're stopping to ticket people for flashing lights at oncoming traffic, aren't they actually detracting manpower away from protecting the roads (that apparently are just riddled with hardened criminals)?

And at the core of this, the HI POs are using their position to muscle through a ticket that has no (or at best, very little rational) basis in state law. Which pretty much is the opposite of what they're supposed to do.

Typical of HIPO scum, though.

Easy 6
09-13-2011, 02:39 PM
I do that all of the time.

Same here & i have no intention of stopping, even though i've heard the same rumors that its illegal around here.

09-13-2011, 03:43 PM
Do they have a third police car set up down the road to catch drivers who are flashing their high beams to warn those who flash their high beams at speed traps?

Funny, but I actually got pulled over by a FHP officer for this. And I'm sure it was as you describe. Of all places they had a speed trap set up on the way to Bradenton Motorsports Park the weekend of the "Spring Break Shootout". Flashed a fellow car to let them know and got pulled over. I got a speech about "Trying to impersonate a police officer" but no ticket. I said nothing, but I'm sure the billboard on my forehead was flashing "SERIOUSLY?".


09-13-2011, 04:48 PM
I flash my brights at cars in speed trap situations and if a person doesnt have their lights on at night. Im not 100% positive, but I think Ive heard that in Europe instead of flashing their brights, they flash theyre hazards.

09-13-2011, 05:33 PM
In Europe they flash their lights to get slower traffic to move to the right. They don't normally have speed traps there as the limit is much higher.