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Flashing in public no longer illegal in Florida

Florida Highway Patrol sued over ticketing practice

erich.campbell

Starting Tuesday, flashing your headlights to alert oncoming traffic that police are lying in wait along the roadside will no longer be against the law in the state of Florida.

The provision legalizing such speed trap warnings is part of a statewide change in motor vehicle laws.

An attorney who represented cited motorists believes, though, that the revised traffic code contains loopholes that would still allow police to ticket flashing drivers.

“The action of the Legislature in our belief fell short,” Oviedo attorney J. Marcus Jones told the Associated Press.

Passed by the legislature last March, the new law amended one section of Florida’s existing traffic code but – according to Jones – police may still use other provisions to cite blinking motorists.

Those provisions include prohibitions against using high beams within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or within 300 feet of a vehicle ahead.  The newly stated exception for flashing headlights does not apply to those sections of the traffic code.

After being sued by motorist Erich Campbell, the Florida Highway Patrol ordered state troopers to stop issuing citations to flashing drivers.

Campbell, a student attending St. Petersburg College was cited for violating an existing law that says “flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles” except for turn signals.

The lawsuit alleges that the Florida Highway Patrol misinterpreted that particular provision of the state traffic code as it was meant only to ban motorists from having strobes lights that resemble those on official emergency vehicles.

To clear up any ambiguity, the new law specifically amends Florida’s traffic code to allow motorists to flash their headlights at an oncoming vehicle regardless of intent.

A Pinellas County judge dismissed Campbell’s $115 ticket, but his lawsuit against the FHP is facing dismissal in Tallahassee.

Representing Campbell before Circuit Court Judge Kevin Carroll, Jones has requested reconsideration because of the alleged inconsistencies remaining in Florida’s traffic code.

If successful in seeking reconsideration, Jones intends on seeking class-action status in an effort to obtain refunds for the estimated 2,400 drivers who were convicted and paid fines between 2005 and 2010 for flashing their high-beam lights.

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