Florida Driver Ticketed For Warning Others Of Speed Trap: Legal Or Not?

August 26, 2011
2011 Chevrolet Caprice Police Car

2011 Chevrolet Caprice Police Car

Eric Campbell was driving on Veteran’s Expressway in Tampa, Florida, when he spotted the Florida Highway Patrol cars sitting in the median. Campbell, who was driving the speed limit, did what he’s always done: he flashed his high beams to warn oncoming traffic of the speed trap.

One of the Florida State Troopers noticed Campbell’s efforts to warn oncoming traffic, and a minute later Campbell was being pulled over for his efforts. Advised that his flashing of high beams was illegal, Campbell was cited under Florida statute 316.2397 and given a $100 ticket.

Florida statute 316.2397 is a lengthy one, covering the conditions under which flashing lights are legal on both civilian and emergency vehicles. On civilian vehicles, flashing lights can be used to indicate a stopped vehicle or to signal a turn, but the statute says nothing about the use of headlights to signal other drivers.

By Campbell’s logic, and that of his attorney, the Florida Highway Patrol is incorrectly applying state law in an effort to generate revenue, so Campbell has filed a class-action lawsuit against the state. He’s seeking a refund of his $100 ticket, plus damages in excess of $15,000.

Case law is on his side as well, since a 2005 court order specified that Florida state law does not specifically prohibit the flashing of headlights.

Campbell isn’t the only one ticketed incorrectly; since 2005, there have been over 10,000 motorists in Florida ticketed under the same statute. Punitive damages aside, if all 10,000 motorists participate in Campbell’s class-action lawsuit, Florida is looking at the repayment of over $1 million in potentially ill-gotten ticket revenue.


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