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Citation issued for "flashing" lights to warn of speed trap

Discussion in 'Speeding Tickets, Traffic & Moving Violations' started by erkme73, Dec 13, 2009.

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  1. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    The entire incident was recorded on my dash cam (installed several years ago after an incident where I had no witnesses).

    [EDIT: Since I'm a new member, I can't post links. I've edited the URL, so you will have to cut/paste with it corrected.]


    VIDEO: youtube[dot]com/watch?v=Ed7xiZeWrYk

    The citation lists FL statute 316.2397.7 which reads:

    (7) Flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles except as a means of indicating a right or left turn, to change lanes, or to indicate that the vehicle is lawfully stopped or disabled upon the highway or except that the lamps authorized in subsections (1), (2), (3), (4), and (9) and s. 316.235(5) are permitted to flash.

    The comment/note section of the citation states "IMPROPER USE OF HIGH-BEAMS". When watching the video, it is clear I did not use my high-beams.

    When the Trooper initially stated that it was illegal to flash my lights to warn others of his location, not knowing any better, I assumed he was correct. I then tried to explain why I flashed my lights. He interrupted and would not let me explain.

    I then asked what is illegal about warning others. This wasn't an admission of intent. I simply wanted to know what law made it illegal for motorists to communicate. He did not answer that question, instead, he described me using my brights.

    A bit further in the stop, I again tried to explain that I turned my lights on and off - even attempting to show the difference between on/off vs. on and brights. That went no where as well.

    My lights were turned on/off 5 times in approximately 5 seconds. Then, a few hundred feed further, again 4 more times - in about 5 seconds.

    My defense, had I been afforded the opportunity to explain, was that my left light pattern appeared to have a slight wobble/flicker with the bumps in the road (as though the headlight was loose). To verify that it was my vehicle that was causing the pattern and flicker, I turned the lights on and off. In essence I was trouble shooting my equipment. I suppose I could have pulled over on a highway at night and tested it there, but figured this was safer. I have since gone to a local repair shop, and have documented that the light was not loose, and that it was adjusted.

    Little did I know that the Trooper was right there as I was troubleshooting.

    Now, I realize I did many things wrong in this stop. Namely, trying to defend myself when asked why I was illegally warning motorists. The Trooper seemed to be frustrated.

    The ticket is only $101, and a non-moving violation. But, I want to challenge it on principle on the following basis:
    1. I strongly believe that both the INTENT of statute 316.2397.7, and the manner in which it is written, describes flashing as an adjective, not a verb. In other words, the entire chapter references turn-signals, hazard lights, strobes, and other lights designed to flash - not manually causing a light to turn on and off. Otherwise, pulsing the brake pedal would cause the brake lights to "flash" illegally.
    2. Assuming that I 'had' used my lights to signal other motorists, that is a form of communication - which I believe is protected by the 1st Amendment.
    3. The illegal act was clearly defined by the Trooper as flashing my high-beams. Despite my attempts to explain and correct - even asking if would have made a legal difference - the Trooper wrote me for something I did not do. If he can't tell the difference between on and off, and high-beams, wouldn't his credibility be called into question?

    At $101 fine, it is difficult for me to justify the expense of an attorney. Especially considering that it is a non-moving violation. Yet, I think one could make a strong case of 1st Amendment infringement.

    Doing a search on 316.3297.7 in Google reveals many FL drivers who have been cited for signaling other drivers. The FHP is using this statute regularly to discourage communication.

    At this point, I'm a bit uncertain on how to proceed. I think I have enough documentation to prove the officer was wrong, that my 'excuse' was legit, and that I wasn't signaling oncoming traffic. But, by showing my video, I am admitting guilt that I did turn my lights on and off. Technically driving without lights at night is another charge - one that is a moving violation.

    So I may be making things worse by trying to fight the ticket.

    Should I submit a motion for discovery to learn what the Trooper has for notes, and any audio/video recordings he may have made?

    I don't want to cross-post, but I will try to find Constitutional sub-forum here, and post there as well.

    Thanks!
     
  2. tpajet

    tpajet New Member

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    I would definatly fight this one in court. You need to bring up the whole of 316.2397. Here is a link: 316.2397

    The reason is that the statute does in fact refer to flashing lights as a TYPE of light, not the action of flashing your lights. Also, bring your video as it clearly shows that the lights were in fact off and on, NOT bright and dim.

    BTW - looks like the Vet Ex at Hillsborough Ave just north of the airport. That's my regular commute. It's funny to me how when yo hit the Pasco county line, the speed limit increases from 60 to 70 in the middle of nowhere, and the state trooper suddenly don't care about speed enforcement. Hillsborough county is a revenue generator county.
     
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  3. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    That's exactly where it happened. And oddly enough, the first time I'd ever seen enforcement that far south. They were in the median at the break in the guard rails - one facing north, the other south. I'm sure they were checking speeds of southbound, since the limit is 40(!) there as you come over the Hillsborough overpass. Of course, doing 40 there would likely result in an accident or worse. There are four south-bound lanes at that point, with a limit of 40. Shooting fish in a barrel.

    Now, the overpass just south of the Van Dyke exit, they're sitting there at least 50% of the time I drive by - and most know that.
     
  4. tpajet

    tpajet New Member

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    Around the airport they won't pull people over unless they are doing at least 60 - or so they said when the paper did an article on it about a year ago.

    What gets me about the Van Dyke overpass is that as you head north you can see them wayyyyyy ahead of time as you come around the curve - long before they can clock you on radar, and yet they never seem to have trouble catching people.
     
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  5. tpajet

    tpajet New Member

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    As I have thought of this one some more, I wouldn't even bring up why you were flashing your lights unless asked. Just simply go to court with the argument that #1 the trooper was wrong when he stated that you flashed your brights and #2 that the section of the law pertains to flashing lights as a type of light, not the action of flashing.

    The problem is in the video it doesn't appear that the headlights have an issue other than the dimming, and the fact that the shop noted that they were fine might not help you in court.
     
  6. jharris352

    jharris352 New Member

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    Tpajet is right about the code section. Flashing lights is referring to the type of light and is a noun, not a verb or an adjective. This code section is specifically referring to riding down the road with your blinkers on without due cause. I find it odd that the code section even has such a law.

    Your 1st Amendment argument is cute but off base. If this trooper wanted to get you he would have charged you with Obstruction of Justice. Free speech is not unlimited. If you are helping someone evade the law it is illegal speech. Imagine the police were chasing a bank robber and you gave them directions that told them where the police were waiting for them. That's speech too, but you would be an accessory after the fact and going to prison with them. I will admit I think that flashing your lights is silly as a charge but nonetheless the 1st amendment is not a good defense.

    I would not bring the video. It does nothing for you. It proves that you were turning your lights on and off but could be used on the other side as proof you were doing what he said you were doing. Intent would be the big problem with charging you with obstruction.

    I would go into the court and simply argue that you didn't have your flashers on and therefore the statute does not apply to you. If you are asked if you flashed your headlights you can say, "No, I thought something was wrong with them so I turned them on and off to see if it would fix it." I would not even admit that you knew the cop was there.

    Keep it very very simple and you will win. It may not be as sexy as a 1st Amendment claim on a traffic ticket, but you will win.

    If faced with a quasi obstruction of justice charge on something like flashing your lights one could always say, "I was encouraging people on the other side to slow down and obey the law, not warning them that there was a trooper around." Encouraging people to act legally is not Obstruction of Justice. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2009
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  7. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Good point about the video... it might be best not to bring it, and if you do, take out the audio.
    You shouldn't need it though. The statute is being misused, and that argument coupled with the other statute that proves flashing your lights is permitted should be all you need.
    Maybe the video could be used on appeal if necessary? I can't imagine a judge ruling against you on this though... that officer has a tough sell in court.
     
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  8. jharris352

    jharris352 New Member

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    If you don't use the video in court it can't be used on appeal. I don't believe the officer will even show. I think they officer is harassing the OP by writing them a ticket. If they pay it he wins, if they waste time having to fight it he wins. I wish there was a way to punish a policeman that misuses his/her power.
     
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  9. tpajet

    tpajet New Member

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    This may be true, however if he wins I would contact the TV news. They may or may not do a story about it, but it's worth a try. The angle of the story would be how they are using this statute wrongly as he has found in research. And if it were me, I wouldn't car if the trooper wins due to my spending my time. I've still won the case and made him look like an ass in court.
     
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  10. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks for all the input. I'm gaining more confidence with more research. I've found that FS 316.083(1&2) (overtaking and passing) permits 'blinking of the headlamps' at night:

    Therefore, my primary defense is that the "flashing lights" statute is misapplied, and not relevant in reference to headlamps. Should the magistrate not agree, the I will fall back to authorized to blink when passing (both times I blinked, I was passing a car on the left).

    Should the magistrate concur that the statute is misapplied, I will leave the courtroom and call the investigative reporter who has already requested an interview. I will make it a point to shine some light on FHP's tactics- hopefully discouraging the practice.

    It has been a while since I've been in traffic court, but I assume it will go something like this:

    Magistrate will ask the trooper to provide his side of the story
    Magistrate will ask me for my side of the story.
    Before I start telling my story, should I question the trooper about how certain he was that I used my high-beams?
    I will then tell the magistrate that the trooper was mistaken in his comment field - that I did not use my high-beams.
    Further, I believe that 316.2397 is misapplied since all references in the statute are for emergency type (red/blue) lights, and/or directional blinkers, strobe lights, and rotary lights. Specifically, paragraph 7 describes a TYPE of flashing light, whereby flashing is not a verb - and that there are no references to headlamps.
    Finally, I will provide copies of 316.2397 and 316.083 providing a comparison between "blinking headlamps", which are authorized, and "flashing lights" which are prohibited.

    If there is any material benefit to proving I did not flash my high-beams - or if the trooper continues to challenge this, I will then produce the video.

    As to my excuse for blinking my lights, I believe that to be irrelevant since 316.083(2) authorizes the practice when overtaking and passing - which is what I was doing.

    For good measure, I have a mechanic's receipt showing that my light was inspected since the stop.

    Any comments?
     
  11. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Yes, before you give a statement, clarify any questions you have about the trooper's statement. If he stands by his statement of you flashing high beams, you will know that you can show the video that is clearly contrary. You should contact the court prior to your date to make sure that you follow appropriate procedure if you intend to use the video.
    Yes, explain that you believe the trooper has wrongly applied the statute that you were cited for. Provide the statute for overtaking vehicles as evidence that it is NOT unlawful to flash your lights. Whether you were passing another vehicle or not, there is no statute that says it is unlawful to turn your lights on/off. Give the example of truckers who are notorious for this form of communication on the road, flashing lights to let the other one know it is clear to move over.
    The trooper cited you because he felt you were warning other driver's of his presence... which you were... but there is nothing in the statute prohibiting that. If you are asked about why you flashed your lights, stick to the story you gave in the video... that you never saw the officer and you were flashing your lights because they seemed faulty. The judge will never believe you, but that really won't matter. What you don't want to do is give a statement different that what is in the video.

    You are well prepared- but as others mentioned, I believe it unlikely the officer will show and you will dimply be dismissed. Definitely do come back and tell us the results though.
     
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  12. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    96 Ohio App.3d 99 (1994), VILLAGE OF KIRTLAND HILLS, Appellee, v. GARCIA, Appellant. No. 93-L-111. Court of Appeals of Ohio, Lake County. Decided July 5, 1994.

    I realize that's not FL law, but I suppose it could carry some weight if I cited it?

    I'm not questioning your expertise - I'm only trying to learn through asking questions.
     
  13. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I am so miffed over what the state is doing, that I really do want the trooper there. If he doesn't show, I'd almost ask to be rescheduled so I can get a fair ruling on the statute. Sounds stupid, I know, but if this magistrate doesn't get the opportunity to rule, then I have nothing.
     
  14. jharris352

    jharris352 New Member

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    Don't get me wrong, I totally support your effort. I've always thought the idea of ticketing someone for flashing their headlights to warn of a speedtrap is silly.

    I don't think it's a 1st amendment issue, but I do think it is silly.

    If the cop really wanted to get you Obstruction would be the charge. I don't think for a minute that anyone would convict you.

    Good luck.
     
  15. jharris352

    jharris352 New Member

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    I don't know if you realize this but your ruling will not be published and will not provide a precedent for anyone else. This is going to be a personal victory for you and you only. You could POSSIBLY get a reporter to cover it but don't hold your breath. They are going to be more likely interested in covering the angle that you were trying to hinder the cops job.

    Again, I agree with you...
     
  16. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    I don't think he could prove obstruction any more than he can the flashing lights. It's bad no matter what way you look at it.
     
  17. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Really? I didn't know that. Is that the case even if I'm found guilty, and it goes to the appellate level? I've read several appellate summaries from GA and OH on this exact issue regarding the term "flashing light".

    I'd post the link, but alas, I'm a lowly 9 count poster and can't yet.

    The reporter has already reached out to me, and he is quite anti-government. Spent a few hours in the lock-up (later dropped with apologies) for overstaying his welcome during a police interview.
     
  18. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Ok, I just hit 10 posts. Here's the link to the quote above: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_c...77651&q="96+Ohio+App.3d+99"&hl=en&as_sdt=2002

    The Kirtland Hill's ordinance is virtually identical in wording as the FS 316.2397.7 on my citation:
    Here's FL:

     
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2009
  19. mightymoose

    mightymoose Moderator

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    Let's be clear about something.... though the statute allows for flashing your lights when passing, that is NOT what you were doing. I know the video show traffic beside you, but it is not very convincing to support an argument that your intend was to signal to the driver that you were passing. You should avoid making that argument.
    You argument should be devised to state that the statute that you were cited for does not prohibit you from flashing your headlights as you did. Avoid the claim that you were signaling the other driver that you were passing as the statue states. The statute is only proof that it is not unlawful to flash the lights.
     
  20. erkme73

    erkme73 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Mighty - I can't claim I was flashing to pass - since I'm already on record as 'trouble shooting' my lights with the trooper. The reason I would bring up the statute is, just as you said, to show that there are legitimate reasons to blink headlamps - and the verbage used to describe that is 'blinking' not 'flashing'.
     

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