In the city of Ellisville police officers are regularly issuing citations to drivers who flash their headlights as warnings to other drivers -- and then charging them with fines as high as $1,000.
So says the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, which is challenging the city for a policy that the group says violates First Amendment protections of drivers.
"It's ridiculous," Tony Rothert, ACLU-EM legal director, tells Daily RFT. "There are a lot of reasons to flash your lights."
In a formal complaint, full document on view below, the ACLU argues that it's not only an unfair police tactic -- it also breaches basic constitutional rights.
Daily RFT left messages today with the city attorney and another city official, and we will update if we hear back.
The case was brought forward on behalf of driver Michael Elli, who the ACLU says was driving along Kiefer Creek Road last November when he flashed his headlights to warn oncoming traffic to "proceed with caution."
He was subsequently pulled over by an Ellisville police officer and issued a citation for "flashing lights to warn of radar ahead."
When he appeared in municipal court, the ACLU says, "he was told the standard punishment is a $1,000 fine." That charge was eventually dismissed -- but now city officials will have to address this policy in court.
Rothert tells us that the ACLU has clear evidence that this is a regular practice of Ellisville police and not just a one-time incident.
"We've learned from city of Ellisville officials that this is a commonly charged offense," he says.
Continue for more details on the ACLU allegations and the full complaint.
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