Blogger’s Note: When a Florida man flashed his headlights to
warn oncoming motorists of an upcoming speed trap, he was pulled
over and ticketed. He’s taken
the fight to court, where he’s filed a class-action
lawsuit alleging his free speech rights were violated.
I’ve sought the perspective of two locals — Bremerton
defense attorney Stan Glisson and Port Orchard top cop Al Townsend
— to give us their take on
this unusual but intriguing case. Here is
Townsend’s commentary. Glisson’s essay
appeared Friday. Be
sure to read up on the case first.
JF: “A Florida man is suing for violation of his first amendment
rights because he passed a speed trap and then flashed his
headlights — and got ticketed for it. In Washington, would
this type of thing be grounds for a ticket? Why or why not?”
AT: “It would NOT … The legal answer is
state law forbids people from shining their high beam lights at
other drivers in the range of 300 to 500 feet. So it would be
uncommon in my mind for someone driving around after dark to get
stopped if they are driving with their high beams on because they
could be impacting the vision of oncoming cars.
Now, I suppose technically, if you are flashing your high beams
at another car then you are driving with your high beams on and
could be subject to that law. But … we would not stop a
car for doing that as it relates to notifying other drivers
of a radar zone or even when other drivers try to get the attention
of a driver who is cruising down the road with his high beams on
(to get his attention to shut them off).
In fact … if more people would do that when they see cops
running radar, more people would slow down and accomplish our
If one of my cops did the Florida thing and stopped a car for
flashing his headlights at another car that was warning him of a
radar set, he’d be on the carpet in my office … I can guarantee you
it would only happen once.”
Al Townsend is police chief in the city of Port Orchard.
Aside from his administrative duties, he is known as one of the few
top cops who regularly patrols the streets with the line
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