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Fined for flashing lights to warn drivers? Not anymore

8:11 AM, Sep 18, 2011   |    comments
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- After a class-action lawsuit was filed earlier this year, local law enforcement agencies have put a temporary ban on officers issuing tickets to drivers who flash their headlights at oncoming cars to warn other drivers of police activity ahead.

The Florida Highway Patrol is named in the lawsuit and said 82 drivers from across the state were ticketed by troopers for warning other drivers last year. That driving courtesy has landed some people with tickets costing up to $125, depending on the location. Many simply pay the fine without a second thought and attorneys said it has gone on for years.

In 2005, police ticketed an Oviedo woman when she flashed her high beams to warn approaching cars of officers pulling people over. A judge later tossed that ticket out.

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"It' something everybody has done. People have been on the fence. They don't know if it's against the law, is it not against the law? I'm here to tell you, it's not against the law," said Marc Jones, the attorney who filed the class-action lawsuit on behalf of anyone who got tickets for warning drivers.

Some courts and law enforcement have said the tickets are a misinterpretation of the law. The officers are using a state statute that bans people from putting special lights on their cars that mimic emergency vehicles. Jones thinks the law is meant to cover equipment installation, not the action of using headlights to communicate with other drivers.

So why do officers issue them? Jones thinks it's all about ego.

"They're mad at people for alerting that they're there," he said. "Their money was wrongly taken from them and if we can, we'd like to see them get it back."

Orange and Seminole County deputies and FHP said they have stopped issuing tickets because of the ongoing class action lawsuit.

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