Judge Rules Flashing Headlights is a First Amendment Right

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COLUMBIA - A federal judge ruled this week flashing headlights to warn drivers of a speed trap is a first amendment right.

The Associated Press reports the St. Louis judge made the ruling after driver Michael Elli was pulled over and cited for flashing his headlights to warn oncoming drivers of a police radar trap. If Elli had been convicted he would have faced a $1,000 fine.

The ruling extends beyond St. Louis. Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Tim Hull said there is no state law forbidding drivers from flashing their headlights. He did say drivers could be pulled over after flashing their lights when it reveals they are breaking a different law.

Captain Hull said, "There are other statutes even though there's not one that specifically deals with just warning somebody of an area of speed enforcement ahead, that could lead to other things, too."

It is illegal to have a burned out headlight or high beam lights on within 500 feet of an oncoming driver. Hull said the charges would be dealt with at the trooper's discretion.

Captain Hull said every situation is different and laws very from county to county, but there is no state law dealing with flashing headlights to warn oncoming drivers of a speed trap.