• Brad Keating

Is it Illegal to Flash Your Headlights to Warn of Police in Ohio?

Headlight flashing is an interesting point of discussion, no matter where in the world it takes place. Generally, people's opinion on it depends on their opinion on police officer conduct. There are those that believe that random police checkpoints and setting up a speed trap is wrong and look to catch good citizens off guard to meet a quota.


The argument is two-fold for flashing headlights. On one hand, there are those arguing that the act is obstruction, as it impedes the police's ability to carry out their duty. On the other hand, there is the claim that the action is protected as free speech under the first amendment.


It's that specific contradiction that makes warning oncoming motorists of police checkpoints. With that in mind, it's only natural that there's have been various court proceedings regarding headlight flashing to warn oncoming traffic.


The precedent was set for this in back in the 1970s. During this time, the Ohio courts ruled that flashing your headlights was not illegal, did not violate any law, and was protected by the first amendment. However, this only stands if the other drivers were not speeding prior to the warning that was sent out.


The court also ruled that probation on flashing lights does not include the act of manually flashing headlights. Lastly, in a separate case, the Ohio court ruled that a quick flick of a vehicle's high beams is not a law violation as the flash does not obstruct the vision of any oncoming drivers.


Ohio is a state with some more high profile precedents for this particular situation being set. In many other states, the act is still very legally gray and treated on a case by case basis, but in Ohio, it is more set in stone.



Is It Illegal to Flash Headlights to Warn of Police in Arkansas?

While the headlights flashing situation relatively black and white in Ohio, it isn't so much in Arkansas.


In the past, the act of using a vehicle's lights to warn others of speed traps was an offense. There were cases in the Arkansas court ruled as such, and the act itself was in violation of Arkansas law, and thus illegal. However, that changed in 2014.


During that year, while Mississippi and Arkansas both convicted drivers for flashing their headlights, the federal court ordered that the act was protected by the US constitution.


This order alone gave drivers a fighting chance in states that would otherwise be convicting them, as there has now been precedent set for the act being protected.


Is It Illegal to Flash Lights to Warn of Police in Ireland?

Like in the states, the act of flashing headlights is a legally gray area. It is not explicitly against the law to warn others of garda checkpoints and speed vans, although it is against the law to obscure the vision of other vehicles in any way. This is a law that the garda often takes advantage of and uses to punish drivers that warn other road users of garda presence.


Is It Illegal to Flash Lights to Highlight Checkpoints in Maryland?

Like Ohio, and every other state following that federal order, the use of headlights to inform other road users of checkpoints is legal. There is no written offense for which a person can be taken to court. However, like those other states, the sheriffs can use a number of other laws to work around this restriction, such as fining the driver for impeding an investigation, or for obscuring the vision of other vehicles.





For more information on Ohio's vehicle and injury laws, visit our Ohio's vehicle/accident injury laws blog.

Are u turns illegal in Ohio? Read our previous blog to find out.


Disclaimer: The details included in this blog is offered for educational purposes only, and should not be taken as lawful guidance in any way. No recipients of material from this blog, clients or otherwise, should or should not act on the basis of any material consisted in the blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional guidance on the particular facts and situations at issue from an attorney accredited in the recipient's state.

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