Yelling at parking enforcement is free speech, says Michigan court

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Parking enforcement

Though perhaps rude, yelling at parking enforcement is considered free speech in Michigan. Photo Credit: Certo Xornal/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

Parking tickets are a real pain in the rear and some parking enforcement officials, though just doing a job, are rather stingy. Ordinarily, showing them a sign of one’s displeasure is frowned upon, but a recent Michigan court ruling holds that yelling at parking enforcement is free speech.

University rule preventing yelling at parking enforcement tossed

Typically, yelling at parking enforcement officers would just be considered rude, as they are only doing a job. However, according to AutoBlog, officials at Michigan State University made it a crime by instating a campus ordinance years ago making it illegal for anyone to disrupt a university employee carrying out university business, including parking enforcement giving tickets to anyone whose parking meter had run out.

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In 2008, Jared Rapp found a parking enforcement official placing a ticket on his car and let him know that he was not amused. The officer retreated to his vehicle, called campus police, and Rapp was arrested and convicted of interfering with a university employee. However, the Michigan Supreme Court has just ruled on Rapp’s appeal, and, according to the Detroit News, tossed his conviction. The court held that Rapp’s actions were protected as speech.

Honk if you love free speech

There are a number of court cases that hold some aspects of motoring and car-related life that might be considered annoying but are constitutionally-protected speech. It depends on the circumstances, though.

Honking the horn, for instance, was ruled to be constitutionally protected by the Washington State Supreme Court in 2011. According to the Seattle Times, a horn-honking ordinance was found to have violated the right to free speech of Helen Immelt, who was ticketed for honking her horn at a neighbor who ratted on her to the neighborhood homeowner’s association for having chickens in the yard of her own home, which led to her being arrested in 2006. However, the state’s highest court tossed her conviction, holding the law violates free speech.

However, that same year, according to CBS Milwaukee, a man who honked his horn driving by the home of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker during his morning drive to work out of protest was fined by a state trooper. Azael Brodhead, though, was found to be engaging in non-protected behavior and in September 2011, was ordered to pay his fines.

Flashing lights to avoid the flashing lights

Some drivers flash lights to warn other drivers of cops up ahead. A Florida judge ruled earlier this year that doing so is free speech, according to AutoBlog, and police cannot ticket motorists for doing so. However, it has yet to be ruled on or tried in other states, so some motorists who engage in said activity might be targeted by police. As with any court case involving free speech, usually one has to go through several years of litigation before a ruling may or may not exonerate them.

Sources

AutoBlog

Detroit News

Seattle Times

CBS Milwaukee: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2011/09/12/is-horn-honking-protected-free-speech/

AutoBlog: http://www.autoblog.com/2012/05/23/florida-judge-rules-flashing-lights-for-speed-trap-warning-is-co/

 


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