Drivers Civilly Disobeying With Speed Trap Warnings

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There is an ongoing struggle between people giving out speed trap warnings and police who punish them. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

There is an ongoing struggle between people giving out speed trap warnings and police who punish them. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Speed trap warnings from motorists to other motorists is becoming something of an issue. It’s both an act of civil disobedience and an ongoing legal matter, as law enforcement seeks to suppress the practice worldwide.

Make a federal case of speed trap warnings, why don’t you?

Police don’t like speed trap warnings. As a consequence, motorists who try to warn others of police presence often get punished with tickets. Many think it’s unfair or even unconstitutional.

Now, for those that don’t understand the legal system of the United States, there are two ways to change how laws are enforced and/or how police behave: A.) representative bodies pass laws preventing said naughty behavior or B.) a judge rules they can’t do it.

Nationwide implementation needs a federal court ruling, since state courts…you get the idea. As it happens, there WAS a federal ruling on speed trap warnings recently. In February of 2014, a federal court in Missouri ruled flashing headlights to warn other drivers of police presence was constitutionally-protected speech. The case stems from 2012, when Ellisville, Mo., resident Michael Elli flashed his lights to warn others and was pulled over and handed a $1,000 fine by Ellisville police. The ACLU wasn’t having it and sued their asses.

Actually a big issue lately

The Missouri case of speed trap warnings is somewhat unique, as it’s one of the few federal court cases dealing with it, though another federal case in 199 held that honking one’s horn was also protected speech, even if warning of police presence. Examples at the state level are much more common, such as in April of 2014 in Oregon, where a court tossed a logging truck driver’s ticket for similar headlight flashing.

There are so very many others; just do a search on Google for “speed trap warnings” and you’ll see. (In the industry, we call them “keywords.”)

It isn’t just an American issue; according to news service UPI, fifteen Parisians just lost their driving privileges for a month for posting warnings of speed traps online. UPI reports it’s being used as a test case to see if others are prosecutable for similar warnings online.

According to Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, motorists in England, Australia, and naturally in Canada, are also receiving tickets in conjunction with warning other motorists of speed traps and police presence.

Line between law and just getting around

The speed trap warnings issue is thorny. On the one hand, police have to be able to do their jobs and law enforcement is, be assured, important. On the other, we, the people, have to be able to get from place to place without having the threat of detention and the rapacious Black Hand of the nanny state getting odiously thrust into our wallets. Freedom of movement is one of the most vital freedoms of all; pervasive police surveillance and threat of punishment impedes that.

Everyone knows that there is a profit motive for police to issue tickets. If that wasn’t the case, ticket quota scandals wouldn’t exist. Tickets provide the state with a lot of money, there is no denying that isn’t a motive. Is it so wrong to not want to get a ticket?

What does it say about our law enforcement community when people are trying to tell others how to avoid them? Are we a nation of criminals? Or are we getting hall monitored to death?

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