Are headlights targeted communication?

by Roger Pynn

As a passionate First Amendment rights advocate, it is difficult to question almost any act of censorship … but a story of a recent court ruling in Central Florida sparked a letter to the editor in the Orlando Sentinel that really gives me pause.

Letter writer Reg Lyle wrote to question whether flashing your car headlights is free speech if your objective is to tell other drivers to slow down because there are police nearby.  Circuit Judge Alan Dickey had ruled that warning speeders of their potential to be stopped qualifies for the constitutional protection.

But Lyle suggests otherwise.  When targeted communication is intended to obstruct justice, whether in the form of a flash of the headlights or perhaps warning a terrorist that an undercover law enforcement officer has infiltrated their branch of al-Qaeda, should the communication be protected?  Is there any difference?  Is the First Amendment intended to get in the way of our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness … which law enforcement officers are paid to protect?

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