Should flashing your headlights to warn other motorists to be aware of police presence in the area be protected by the First Amendment?
Michael Elli of Michigan, was doing just that. Trying to warn fellow drivers about a police trap by flashing his lights, when he was pulled over by officers who were not too pleased with him and given a ticket.
The charge was obstruction of justice, but prosecutors ended up dropping the case.
However, Elli has filed a class action lawsuit against the city, claiming that police retaliates against drivers who exercise their right of free speech, in this case warning others of police presence.
He also adds that the government is trying to prevent free speech because it disagrees with the message.
Under the law, obstruction of justice is usually reserved for active attempts to interfere with the administration of the courts, the judicial system, or law enforcement officers.
So is flashing headlights to warn other motorists obstructing police activity?
It seems that there is a fine line and the subject is not at all clear.
From the police perspective, they are looking for speeding cars and other violators to protect the public and Elli’s actions interfere with that objective.
But does a citizen have the right to, out of the goodness of his heart, warn others to watch out because the police is there? Elli doesn’t see anything wrong in doing so.
Several other states, including Florida, Utah, and Tennessee have ruled that it is protected speech under the constitution and the flashing driver cannot be prosecuted.
In the case of Michael Elli, the problem is that once the charges were dropped, he filed a lawsuit and in those cases plaintiffs have been less successful.
Do you think that a driver flashing headlights to warn others of police traps should be protected by the First Amendment?
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