Is flashing your car’s headlights protected by the First Amendment?
Posted 7/18/2013 11:16:00 AM

Missouri resident Michael Elli wanted to let others on the road know to slow down because they were about to drive into a speed trap, so he did what many kindhearted souls do: He flashed his headlights as a warning.

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Police didn’t take at all kindly to warnings of this 21stcentury Paul Revere.  They flashed him a ticket of his very own for obstruction of justice.  Prosecutors eventually dropped the case, but Mr. Elli has now filed a class action lawsuit against the city because he says that the city retaliates against drivers who exercise their right to free speech–and that the government is trying to prevent it because it doesn’t like the message.

Under the law, obstruction of justice is generally defined as an attempt to interfere with the administration of the courts, the judicial system or law enforcement officers.

So if a person is aware of a confidential, ongoing investigation and tells the subject of the pending investigation, he or she may be guilty of obstruction of justice.

A former Key West bank officer pleaded guilty this past May to a charge that she received a grand jury subpoena, was told that it is a federal crime to disclose a federal grand jury subpoena received by a financial institution, but notified the subjects of the investigation. She faces up to five years in prison for the violation.

But the line between obstructing justice by advising others of an ongoing investigation and an individual’s right to free speech can be very murky.

Posted By: Producer Thomas  
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