Judge: Flashing headlights is free speech

If I shout at you while driving, “hey, there’s a cop up ahead and he’s running a speed trap,” there’s no way that is a crime. If people can throw as much money as they want at candidates in the name of free speech, I certainly have the right to say what I want. At least, for now.

What if my headlights do the talking?

The Minnesota Court of Appeals preserved your right to flash headlights quickly in 2012 when it said stopping a car for flashing headlights was improper, even if it did result in finding out the driver had been drinking. But it didn’t make the rule on the basis of free speech.

Now a court in Oregon has.

Jackson County Justice Court Judge Joe Charter has ruled that the police were wrong to ticket a driver who flashed his headlights at another trucker to warn him of a speed trap.

The judge wrote:

The expressive conduct used by the Defendant at issue here potentially sends a message to other drivers on the road that they should bring their driving in conformity with the law, such as by slowing down or turning on one’s own headlights at dusk or in the fog. Defendant’s conduct here was clearly expressive. The citation was clearly given to punish the Defendant for that expression. Defendant’s expressive activity in this context is protected by Article I, section 8. The government certainly can, and should, enforce the traffic laws for the safety of all drivers on the road. However, the government cannot enforce the traffic laws, or any other laws, to punish drivers for their expressive conduct.