Should You Warn Other Drivers About Speed Traps and Sobriety Checks?
You’re driving north along the highway, going just a little more than the speed limit. As you approach an overpass, you see a car in the southbound lane flash its headlights at you. You softly apply the brakes to bring your vehicle back to the speed limit. As you go under the bridge, you see trooper lying in wait. Whew, you dodged a ticket.
Sound familiar? For many people in the Carolinas, headlight flashing has prevented costly speeding citations. However, what many consider to be a friendly warning has proven to be a ticketed offense in some states.
Ticketed for the Warning
In Ohio, a 43-year-old man says he has made it his business to warn other people about DUI checkpoints. He was recently ticketed for a sign he made warning drivers to “Turn now!” in order to avoid the sobriety check. Law enforcement claimed he was getting in the way of an official investigation.
The man plans to fight back, stating that the ticket violates his First Amendment rights. If the man were in Missouri, he may have a case. A federal judge in the state ruled earlier this year that under the First Amendment, motorists are legally allowed to flash their lights because it communicates to drivers that they need to start complying with the law. Several other states have also upheld a driver’s right to flash headlights.
In the Carolinas
There are no laws on the books in either North Carolina or South Carolina that make it illegal for a driver to flash headlights or otherwise warn motorists. However, law enforcement may still pull someone over for the practice due to violations of other laws, such as:
- Shining high beams at other vehicles, which in South Carolina comes with a $200 or more fine
- Having flashing lights on your vehicle that are deemed distracting
- Interfering with an official investigation
It is important to note that in some states, like Alaska, flashing headlights could give law enforcement a probable cause to pull over a vehicle, or it could lead to other charges. The Ohio man who was ticketed for warning motorists received a similar citation in 2012 along with a ticket for having a knife in his pocket at the time. However, both the obstruction of justice and carrying a concealed weapon charges were dismissed.
At Nosal & Jeter,LLP we believe in protecting the rights of our clients. We will fight for your rights and will use all available evidence in order to help reduce charges and dismiss tickets against motorists. If you are cited for a traffic violation or flashing your headlights, contact one of our attorneys today and allow us to navigate the legal process for you.