Constitutional Rights to Flash Headlights

Explore:  ACLU First Amendment

We’ve all seen cars that flash their headlights to warn fellow drivers of a nearby police officer. While this practice may be annoying to law enforcement, an appeals attorney can explain to you why flashing your headlights may be a constitutionally protected form of communication.

State Laws Addressing Headlight Flashing Explained
Several states have already introduced state laws that would make flashing your high beams to other drivers legal. New Jersey lawmakers introduced a bill last month. A similar measure was also passed in Missouri earlier this year. Some of these laws came as a reaction to local municipal ordinances that banned the practice of warning fellow motorists of nearby police. Many drivers had received tickets for flashing their headlights as a form of communication.

A primary backer of the laws giving drivers the right to flash their headlights is the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU got involved after a Missouri driver was issued a $1,000 fine for flashing his lights.

Rationale for the Law
The primary purpose behind the law protecting the flashing of headlights is to preserve “expressive conduct.” Basically, backers of the law see the prohibitions of headlight flashing as an attack on free speech. The ACLU would be concerned that if flashing headlights were banned, lawmakers may then try to take on blogging, Tweeting or some other form of communication that also warns drivers of nearby police.



Topics:  ACLU, First Amendment

Published In: Constitutional Law Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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