Headlight Flashing Is Speech Protected By The First Amendment

There is a long history of considerate drivers warning other drivers of police speed traps by flashing their headlights to oncoming traffic.  What you probably don’t know is some police will try to issue you a traffic citation if you flash your headlights to warn of a speed trap.  That’s exactly what happened to Missouri driver Michael Elli.  A policeman who saw Elli flash his lights pulled Elli over and cited him for “flashing lights on certain vehicles… warning of RADAR ahead,” the Wall Street Journal reported.  This citation carried the potential for a $1,000.00 fine if Elli was convicted.

Although the charge was eventually dropped, the American Civil Liberties Union got wind of Elli’s arrest and sued the city of Ellisville, Missouri, on Elli’s behalf.  The basis of the suit is that when Elli was arrested for flashing his headlights to communicate to oncoming drivers that there was a police speed trap ahead, the arrest infringed on Elli’s First Amendment right to free speech.  On February 3rd, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Autrey found that the flashing of headlights is indeed speech protected under the First Amendment and issued an order that prevents police from enforcing the state law against flashing headlights.