SANFORD, FLORIDA – A judge in Sanford ruled Tuesday that a Lake Mary man was lawfully exercising his First Amendment rights when he flashed his headlights to warn neighbors that a deputy had set up a speed trap nearby.
That decision is another victory for Ryan Kintner, 25, who sued the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office last year, accusing it of misconstruing a state law and violating his civil rights, principally his right to free speech.
He was ticketed Aug. 10 by a Seminole County deputy, but Kintner alleges the officer misapplied a state law designed to ban motorists from flashing after-market emergency lights.
Circuit Judge Alan Dickey earlier ruled that that state law does not apply to people who did what Kintner did, use his headlights to communicate.
On Tuesday the judge went a step further, saying people who flash their headlights to communicate are engaging in behavior protected by the U.S. Constitution.
“He felt the police specificially went out of their way to silence Mr. Kintner and that it was clearly a violation of his First Amendment free speech rights,” said his attorney, J. Marcus Jones of Oviedo.
Jones has filed a similar but much broader suit in Tallahassee against the Florida Highway Patrol.
A hearing in that case is scheduled next month.
“This stuff is fun,” Jones said after Tuesday’s hearing.
Each suit asked that police agencies be ordered to halt writing those tickets. The highway patrol stopped voluntarily, awaiting the outcome of the suit. So have theSeminole County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies.
In addition to Kintner’s civil suit against the sheriff’s office, he also is fighting the ticket. It is still pending in county court in Sanford.
The officer also ticketed him for running a stop sign, saying Kintner had pulled beyond a stop bar before coming to a complete halt.
In an interview in August, shortly after filing suit, Kintner said, “I felt an injustice was being done. … I have nothing against officers … keeping speeding down, but when you cross a line and get into free speech, I feel it’s gone too far.”
According to his suit, Kintner was home Aug. 10 when he saw a deputy park along a street and pull out his radar gun. Kintner then got in his car, drove a couple of blocks away, parked and pointed his vehicle at oncoming traffic and began flashing his lights.
He was ticketed a short time later.