Monday, July 2, 2012

Woman Jailed After Warning Motorists of Speed Trap

            A woman in Texas was jailed for 12 hours after she held up a sign warning drivers that police officers were pulling cars over for speeding.  According to the woman, she was standing on the sidewalk at the time. According to the officer she was standing in the road, and thus he arrested her for that, not for holding up the sign.  It seems somewhat unlikely that a person would be arrested and jailed for any period of time for an offense such as standing in the road.  Who knows which person is telling the truth, but let’s assume the woman was lawfully standing on the sidewalk and the officer was irritated by her warnings to other motorist.  Does the First Amendment protect a person’s right to warn other motorists of a speed trap or is that some form of obstruction of justice? 

            Currently, I have a client who has been charged with hindering prosecution because she allegedly provided the authorities with “misinformation” after U.S. Marshals asked her about the whereabouts of a suspected criminal.  While we maintain her innocence in this matter, I will say that if my client did knowingly provide such false information, under the statute, she would be guilty of the crime with which she is charged. 

            So is warning drivers of an approaching speed trap analogous to my client’s situation?  Is it hindering prosecution or some other form of obstruction?  Or is it constitutionally protected free speech?  And what’s the difference between this woman’s actions and the occasional public service announcements we hear informing us of a “take back the highways” blitz where State Troopers are beefing up their highway patrols (such as during this week’s holiday)?  Aren’t this woman’s actions and those public service announcements both aimed at slowing people down before they receive a ticket?

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