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Flashing Lights Is Freedom Of Speech

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Is it illegal to flash other drivers to warn them that there’s a speed trap?

Missouri resident Michael Elli wanted to let others on the road know to slow down because they were about to drive into a speed trap, so he did what many kind-hearted souls do: he flashed his headlights as a warning.

Police didn’t take at all kindly to warnings of this 21st century Paul Revere. They flashed him a ticket of his very own for obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors eventually dropped the case, but Mr. Elli has now filed a class action lawsuit against the city because he says that the city retaliates against drivers who exercise their right to free speech – and that the government is trying to prevent it because it doesn’t like the message. Courts in Florida, Utah, and Tennessee have also had to determine whether flashing headlights to warn motorists of speed traps is obstruction of justice or a form of protected speech and have found it is a protected form of free speech.

So while Mr. Elli may well win his case, he might want to look for a cause to fight other than a speed trap if he wants to fight real tyranny.