Woman arrested for warning drivers of speed trap

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speed trap

Warning other drivers of speed traps is free speech. But sometimes you still get arrested for it. Image: rust.bucket/Flickr/CC BY-ND

In yet another challenge to free speech on the road, a woman was arrested in Houston, Texas for warning motorists they were approaching a speed trap.

‘Speed trap!’

Natalie Plummer of Huston was bicycling home with her groceries last week when she noticed an inordinate number of cars being pulled over for speeding. Being the kind of person she is, she biked upstream of the officers, converted her grocery sack into a “Speed Trap!” sign, and held it up to warn approaching motorists.

She says her only intention was to save drivers the price of a ticket. She told TV station KRTK:

“I was completely abiding by the law. I was simply warning citizens of a situation ahead.”

But the local constabulary was not amused. According to Plummer, one of the officers approached her and searched her bag without permission. In so doing, she says he cracked her two iPhones.

Arrested for obscure misdemeanor

She was finally arrested for the misdemeanor of walking on a street where there is a sidewalk available. She was taken to the local jail and held for 12 hours, until her bond was posted. She will have to appear in court later on the charge.

She says she believes the charge, minor as it is, was misapplied:

“I for sure did not step into the street. (I was) on the sidewalk the entire time.”

Plummer believes that she would have been arrested for warning drivers, if such a crime was on the books. She said to KTRK:

“He couldn’t take me to jail for holding up this sign, or he would have. So all he could do was make up something fake about it.”

The Houston Police department had no comment other than to say:

“(She) was in the roadway… (She) was a danger to herself and others… which is an arrestable offense.”

First Amendment protection, judge rules

Ryan Kintner, a Florida man, arrested last August for flashing his headlights to warn motorists of an upcoming speed trap, had his conviction overturned in May. That judge ruled such warnings are protected as free speech under the constitution.

Kitner had been arrested on a local law forbidding the flashing of after-market emergency lights, which did not apply to Kitner’s situation.

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Again, it appears the arresting officer found an inappropriate charge of apply, because warning drivers of speed traps is not a crime.


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