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Class action suit says Florida Highway Patrol illegally tickets motorists who warn others about speed traps

9:51 AM, Aug 26, 2011   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- When the Florida Highway Patrol pulls someone over on the highway, it's usually because they were speeding.

But Eric Campbell was pulled over and ticketed while he was driving the speed limit.

Campbell says, "I was coming up the Veterans Expressway and I notice two Florida Highway Patrol Cars sitting on the side of the road in the median, with lights off."

Campbell says he did what he always does: flashed his lights on and off to warn drivers coming from the other direction that there was speed trap ahead.

According to Campbell, 60 seconds after passing the trooper, "They were on my tail and they pulled me over."

Campbell says the FHP trooper wrote him a ticket for improper flashing of high beams. Campbell says the trooper told him what he had done was illegal.

But later Campbell learned that is not the case. He filed a class action suit which says "Florida Statue 316.2397" -- under which Campbell was cited -- "does not prohibit the flashing of headlights as a means of communications, nor does it in any way reference flashing headlights or the use of high beams."

However, the FHP trooper who wrote the ticket either didn't know or didn't care. "You could tell in his voice he was upset," Campbell says. "He was professional, he wasn't rude... but you could tell he was irritated."

However, the lawsuit says the FHP is well aware they are wrongfully applying the state law and they are doing it as a means of generating revenue. In 2005, a court order was even issued saying the state law doesn't prohibit the flashing of vehicle headlights.

Campbell isn't the only one. Since 2005, FHP records show more than 10,429 drivers have been cited under the statute.

In addition to seeking the refund of the $100 ticket, the lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $15,000.

What's that costing you?

If each person illegally cited was awarded $15,000 that would be $156,435,000 in damages if the suit is successful. Then you would throw in at least another $1,042,900 in ticket refunds, all because it appears troopers don't like motorists warning others about speed traps.

Campbell says he felt as if the trooper thought it was a personal affront. According to Campbell, the trooper did not like the fact somebody was ratting him out.

The Florida Highway Patrol says it can't comment because of the pending lawsuit.

Campbell says FHP had no right to ticket him or anyone under the current law and he adds the agency is not being honest when it says it doesn't write tickets to increase revenue or punish people, but rather to get the motorist to slow down on the highway. If that were true, Campbell says the FHP should be delighted with him, because drivers did slow down before troopers could give them a ticket.

The suit evolved out the fact that Campbell says "I don't like what the government is doing especially now when most people have a hard time affording gas and now they have to defend themselves against a made up charge that doesn't exist."

The state will have to come up with the money for damages if the suit is successful, and guess where the money is coming from: your taxes.

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