Ellisville PD sued for fining drivers flashing lights in warning of speed trap

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by Chris Stanford / News 4

KMOV.com

Posted on July 24, 2013 at 10:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 24 at 11:00 PM

 (KMOV) --  Ellisville police have been busting drivers for years who flash their “brights” to warn of a speed trap under a city ordinance. 

Right now, officers in Ellisville won’t issue citations for this because the city is in the middle of a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union. 

“It violates first amendment rights,” says attorney Grant Doty with the ACLU. “In this case, Mr. Elli was communicating that there’s a speed trap and the officer didn’t like him signaling that fact, but it’s still speech and it needs to be protected.”

Michael Elli filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ellisville drivers.  Elli was issued a $1000 ticket last November for flashing his high beam lights to warn of an upcoming speed trap.  The fine was eventually waived.

In response to the lawsuit, the city of Ellisville said officers would stop issuing citations to drivers for flashing their lights, but only under the city code, which isn’t enough for Doty.

“We’ve asked the judge to prevent the city from enforcing any law by communicating something by flashing your lights,” says Doty.

There’s no specific law in Missouri for warning other drivers of a speed trap, but one state law does prohibit high beams from shining directly in the eyes of approaching drivers.

Doty isn’t satisfied with the city’s response because he says police could still try to use other laws to ticket drivers flipping their lights.

The Ellisville police chief can’t talk about the lawsuit, and the attorney representing the city of Ellisville in this case didn’t return a phone message left Wednesday by News 4.

A judge could put an end to the flashing tickets all together, and that decision could come any day.

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