Police In South Africa Looking To Arrest Guy For Tweeting The Location Of Speed Traps

from the free-speech? dept

While in the US there's still an ongoing debate about whether or not it's okay for people to videotape police in public, it seems like things are much worse in South Africa. Apparently, there's a guy there who's been Twittering the location of various police speed traps and roadblocks. Now, you would think such information would be perfectly legal. If you see a speed trap or a road block, and you tell someone else about it, that's just free speech reporting on factual information that you saw. Not in South Africa apparently. There, the police are trying to figure out who the guy is to arrest him, claiming that he's "obstructing or defeating justice." While I'm certainly not familiar with South African laws, that does seem to go way beyond what typical obstruction of justice laws are designed to protect.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Nick W, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:18pm

    Wasn't there a guy here in the states a few years ago that got arrested/ticketed for flashing his lights to warn oncoming drivers about a speed trap ahead? I remember hearing about it, but don't recall ever hearing what came of it.

     

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  2.  
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    Patrik, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:24pm

    Tweeting? Try a Billboard!

    I remember hearing a story once about how a rich guy in some small American town got so fed up with the way local police were focusing on creating a speed trap by varying MPH limits, that he actually bought billboard ad space on the highway that warned all traffic that they were now entering "America's most profitable speed trap."

    I love that story. I hope it's really true.

     

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  3.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:25pm

    I don't get what this has to do with free speech personally. It's just assisting criminals to avoid the police. He could just as easily be tweeting a message to warn a hostage taker that the mail delivery man is really a cop.

     

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  4.  
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    Spaceboy, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:29pm

    Re:

    Wow so I am a criminal because I was speeding? Isn't it better to have people actually going the speed limit no matter what the reason is?

    The idiot cops in this case should be spamming Twitter with false speed trap sightings. That would really have an impact on speeding.

     

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  5.  
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    A Dan (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:30pm

    Re:

    If the people aren't speeding when they go by the speed traps, how are they 'criminals'? He's directing people to not break the law, albeit at a specific location.

     

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  6.  
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    Patrik, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:34pm

    Re:

    Eh... speed traps are more a profit making venture for police. If there's an area where people excessively speed it's one thing, but most of the time a trap is engineered by unclear signs, varying speed limits when going different directions, dropping the highway speed limit significantly at the bottom of a hill... those sorts of things.

    The only acceptable traps are the ones set near school zones, in my opinion.

    But, I was a delivery driver for years, and I was never issued a ticket. My trick for avoiding traps: just don't speed, or at least adhere to the "5 mile rule".

     

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  7.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Re:

    umm.. no, he is helping them them avoid getting caught breaking the law. Like tweeting that the police are on their way, so get ditch the cocaine, or whatever. Sure it's not as big an offence, but still. I don't get it.

     

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  8.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re:

    Well, I agree with you, I don't think speed traps are designed with out safety in mind either but I don't think it's relevent if I agree with this particular rule or not; there are a lot of rules I don't agree with. That's why I vote.

     

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  9.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:46pm

    Re:

    You can only be assisting a criminal if they are accused, and later found guilty. These people may be breaking the law but isn't this guy helping people obey the law? Much like the speed limit signs on the side of the FREAKING HIGHWAY!

     

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  10.  
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    designerfx (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:48pm

    Re:

    he went free. hard to find the article since it's been a bit though

     

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  11.  
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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:51pm

    Re:

    You are not a criminal until you actually commit a crime. This guy is proactively preventing "criminal" behavior BEFORE it happens at this particular location.

    How thick does your skull have to be to NOT understand this point?

    Unless of course you work for the RIAA, then we are ALL criminals - but the charges have yet to be decided!

     

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  12.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:52pm

    Re: Re:

    Really? So someone who warns drug dealers not to do their deal on wednesday because the cops are watching on that day is not actually helping them avoid getting caught breaking the law, but is actually helping them obey the law on wednesdays? I guess I never looked at it that way!

     

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  13.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 1:53pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ah-hem:
    "Innocent until proven guilty."

     

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  14.  
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    OtherKevin, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Then you also don't get freedom of speech either.

     

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  15.  
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    A Dan (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:09pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Police ticket you for speeding for the single instance when you went by them, not for being a person who speeds. These drivers are not criminals when going by the police if they're not speeding when going by the police.

     

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  16.  
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    Adam Turetzky (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    We do this in the US already

    Remember this:

    "A social worker from New York City was arrested last week while in Pittsburgh for the G-20 protests, then subjected to an FBI raid this week at home -- all for using Twitter. Elliot Madison faces charges of hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime. He was posting to a Twitter feed (or tweeting, as it is called) publicly available information about police activities around the G-20 protests, including information about where police had issued orders to disperse. "

    http://www.zcommunications.org/watch-what-you-tweet-by-amy-goodman

     

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  17.  
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    A Dan (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re:

    What about construction zone speeds?

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:14pm

    Re:

    No the hostage taker has already committed the crime the POTENTIAL speeders have not. Also the guy is helping the police stop speeding by warning people.

     

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  19.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Ah, so it is only against the law to speed when the police are watching.

     

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  20.  
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    A Dan (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'd like to refer you to Ron Rezendes below:

    "You are not a criminal until you actually commit a crime. This guy is proactively preventing "criminal" behavior BEFORE it happens at this particular location."

    Each time that you speed is a separate act of speeding. If the people are not speeding where the police are, they're not breaking the law where the police are. This guy is not responsible for what they do in other places, at other times.

     

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  21.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Re:

    There was a story recently of a guy who held a sign or something warning people to slow down because of a speed trap. The police arrested him, but he was let go when the cops were told it's not illegal to tell someone to obey the law.

     

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  22.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sure, but the same thing applies to the drug dealer.

     

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  23.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:21pm

    Re:

    It is not illegal to tell someone to obey the law.

     

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  24.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    warns drug dealers not to do their deal on wednesday because the cops are watching on that day

    Is it the right thing to do? Let your morals guide you. But is it illegal? No.

     

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  25.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:38pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, thats kinda what I was getting at. You may be right about that :) I guess freedom of speech does protect all this behavior, and we are basically just trusting people not to do it (except with speeding cuz everyone hates that rule anyway).

     

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  26.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think otherkevin was right, and I just didn't understand the extent of what is covered under freedom of speech, which was actually what my question was about. I thought it was about expression of opinion and ideas, but it actually also covers "imparting information" which is what this guy is doing :).

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:58pm

    Why do they hide the speed cameras? What is the advantage?

    Around where I live EVERYONE knows where the speed cameras are. The authorities made sure of that. Why? Because that way people are forced to respect the speed limit, or they'll get a ticket, automatically.

    If they hid the cameras, those that have the tendency to speed, will still speed, because it is the human nature to think that getting caught only happens to the "others". And then they die on a car accident (and potentially kill someone else in the process). What good hiding the speed camera did? You get to ticket a dead guy.

    If everyone knows the cameras are there, they won't speed (there, at least) because it gets expensive after a while (speeding fines are kinda hefty).

    Think about it this way: a bank robber won't rob a bank if there are police at the front door. But if the police were disguised, that wouldn't prevent the robbery (and potential hostage situation). It would only cause much more trouble.

     

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  28.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I kinda think it is the same thing that the guy with "the lookout" job in any criminal endeavor it doing too though.

     

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  29.  
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    vic, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 3:36pm

    So... this from the country where crime *virtually* stopped EVERYWHERE apart from where the police was manning the stadiums during the world cup, where the police make more money in bribes than what they actually do in salary... This does actually not surprise me... This dude is interfering with their ability to make a living :)

    Yes, I am south African, Yes I have first hand experience of the bribe taking cops, and if they are reading this... stop looking, I am not in the country...

     

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  30.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 3:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I guess freedom of speech does protect all this behavior, and we are basically just trusting people not to do it

    Yeah... I think you really don't get freedom of speech. It's not about allowing people to speak but trusting them not to speak in ways you (where "you" could be anyone, but especially the government) don't like. It's about protecting their right to speak freely, period. Even (and especially) if you don't like what they say. And yes, I know there are restrictions on free speech.

    Pardon me if I'm reading too much into your comment.

     

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  31.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Not so much about what I do or don't like, but what sort of communications are covered. I thought it protected expression of ideas and opinions, as opposed to the relaying of any form of data.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 3:53pm

    The police should just subscribe to the feed. Then they'd know when they'd been spotted, and they could move elsewhere.
    There. Simple, elegant solution. Took me about 5 seconds to think of. Much better than playing internet detective or whatever it is they're doing.

     

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  33.  
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    DS, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 4:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So, it should be illegal for me to put a sign in front of my house that said "Stop selling crack"?

     

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  34.  
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    Chris, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 4:38pm

    Re:

    This has EVERYTHING to do with freedom of speech. If they can arrest you for merely stating an observational fact to other people, what else can they arrest you for? Where will the line be drawn? This is how we slowly lose our freedom.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 5:13pm

    It's not helping everyone obey the law, it's only helping the people who would have been speeding "obey the law." However, "obey the law" here means speed until just before the speed trap and speed just after the speed trap. This does not reduce the speeding, it just reduces the enforcement. This
    "speech" does not express a point of view, merely facilitates offenders in not getting caught. Sounds a lot more like the right to possess burglar tools absence any proof of a robbery. Is the speech valuable for something other than avoiding getting caught?

     

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  36.  
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    antitheman, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 5:22pm

    Re: ticket for flashing lights

    Yea, they will write you a ticket. They can get away with it easy by writing you up for flashing your lights and distracting other drivers creating a safety hazard. Your not supposed to do that, even though they are just pissed because you are making them work harder for their quota.

     

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  37.  
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    antitheman, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 5:34pm

    Re: huh?

    I am sorry, but comparing someone who would help a hostage taker to someone that would help a speeder is crazy. Besides cops are the biggest "criminal" speeders of them all when they are not on the job. So according to your logic the cops themselves would help warn a hostage taker of themselves.

     

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  38.  
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    abc gum, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 5:51pm

    I find it interesting that some people equate misdemeanor traffic violations with felony drug trafficking. While it is quite apparent that these two crimes are not even close to being similar, the person continues to use the comparison as if they were. Now one could just overlook this as a childish exaggeration, but I have seen this sort of lie much more frequently these days. I wonder why one would think this is ok.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 7:10pm

    Re:

    "It's not helping everyone obey the law, it's only helping the people who would have been speeding "obey the law."

    Which is kinda of what you want. Those that are willing to obey the law will do so without enforcement. Those that aren't require a little incentive. That's why the police patrols the streets. To discourage would-be criminals from committing crimes. But now, consider this: would this discouraging effect be as efficient if the officers were in disguise or hidden?

    "However, "obey the law" here means speed until just before the speed trap and speed just after the speed trap. "

    Which can be enough if you have speed traps at strategic locations. Personally, I've only seen speed traps at what you could call a motorway. Those speed traps are located just before dangerous turns or areas where heavy congestion or accidents are common. If people aren't going to obey the law everywhere, they might as well obey it in the places where it is more likely for an accident to happen.

     

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  40.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 7:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    In the US at least there's an expansive definition of "speech", even including political money donations. Pretty much any form of communication or expression is covered.

     

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  41.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 8:09pm

    Re:

    This "speech" does not express a point of view, merely facilitates offenders in not getting caught.

    Why did you put speech in quotes? Do you feel it's not really speech?

    Is the speech valuable for something other than avoiding getting caught?

    I have no idea about South African law, but in the US at least there's no caveat about having to express a point of view in order for speech to be protected. It also doesn't have to be "valuable". That's kind of a scary thought too, to have someone in charge of deciding the value of speech based on its content.

    As an aside, what I mean by based on its content is that in the US there are different kinds of speech that are afforded different levels of protection, but these are broad categories such as political speech, commercial speech, etc. Courts and laws don't make judgments about which statements are valuable and which are not, only about the category of speech it falls into. And this is a good thing; we must avoid any sort of government oversight deciding which speech is "good" and which is "bad".

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 10:09pm

    Re:

    Wow! criminals really?

    I'm certain of one thing, you are a criminal too.
    You may think you are not but with thousands of laws I bet you have broke it more then once already.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 10:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Vote for what? more of the same?
    Voting actually rarely ever works.

    Wanna know why?

    Because all the institutions from the government actually don't have elections they have career people who don't get elected and they are the ones really doing laws.

    You think politicians are experts in every field?

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 10:23pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Except nobody is warning people about drug raids are they now?

    Although I'm starting to think that that is not a bad idea either, let nature select the strong and able, the government actually have no power to stop that and is aggravating not only the fiscal imbalance but also a prison population cost and problem.

    Now if it was human trafficking I would understand but it is not and those people you refer too are not stupid like that they send scouts ahead to look for those things, why do you think the police rarely ever get traffickers in routine police stops?

    Go read LEAP(Law Enforcement Against Prohibition).

    To this day it is against the law to produce spirits, but people do it anyway, but the crazy law permits brewing beer.

     

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  45.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Sep 18th, 2010 @ 12:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The guy with "the lookout" job is an accomplice, and he participated in the planning of the crime, and he's getting a cut of the profits. He's not some independent guy who just stands in a corner warning all potential robbers.

     

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  46.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Sep 18th, 2010 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Speed

    > There was a story recently of a guy who held a sign or something
    > warning people to slow down because of a speed trap. The police
    > arrested him, but he was let go when the cops were told it's not
    > illegal to tell someone to obey the law.

    That happened in Texas back when I was in college. They were standing on the highway shoulder about a half-mile before the speed trap holding up signs saying "Slow down, cop ahead." They were arrested for obstruction and their case went up to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled that what they were doing was protected speech, and additionally, as you noted, that it can never be considered obstruction for one citizen to advise another to obey the law.

     

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  47.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 18th, 2010 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, they are just paying him to lookout for police and tell them when to obey the law. He isn't responsible for what they are doing the rest of the time.

     

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  48.  
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    crade (profile), Sep 18th, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    To clarify, he could easily be a seperate entity providing this theoretically completely legal lookout service for a fee with no knowledge (intentionally pretending he doesn't know they are commiting a crime the rest of the time, just like this guy) except what time they would like him to be keeping an eye out.

     

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  49.  
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    Daryl (profile), Sep 20th, 2010 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re:

    Alan, apparently in Florida it is. You can get pulled over and get a nice $90 moving violation fine for doing it.

     

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  50.  
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    Daryl (profile), Sep 20th, 2010 @ 10:24am

    Apparently Wikipedia has a list of some states with detail of their headlight flashing laws. Just type in Headlight Flashing.

    Pennsylvania it is perfectly legal to warn other motorists of a speed trap, but in Florida you will get a $90 fine for doing so.

     

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  51.  
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    Melanie, Oct 8th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    A South African lawyer comments

    While I do not practise criminal law, I do view PigSpotter's actions as obstructing or defeating the ends of justice. If not for his actions many more motorists may have been trapped by speed cameras or stopped at roadblocks. That clearly hinders the job of traffic officers (who, by the way, are not police officers and therefore only deal with traffic violations and related matters).

    So where, for example, 40 people would have been stopped at a roadblock if he didn't warn road users about the roadblock, after tweeting to his thousands of follows, only 10 people pass through the roadblock. Traffic law enforcers cannot make our roads safer if they are constantly dealing with only a fraction of road users.

    In reality, we all do it. Tell our friends/family/possibly strangers about roadblocks and speed traps, but I personally think that announcing it to every Tom, Dick and Mary (particularly on a social networking site such as Twitter) is taking it too far.

    The Prosecuting Authority/Traffic department will want to make an example of this guy to prevent others from following suit.

     

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  52.  
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    nasch (profile), Oct 8th, 2010 @ 10:30am

    Re: A South African lawyer comments

    That clearly hinders the job of traffic officers.... Traffic law enforcers cannot make our roads safer if they are constantly dealing with only a fraction of road users.

    Getting people to slow down doesn't make the roads safer, but giving them speeding tickets does? Do you have any evidence for that claim?

     

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  53.  
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    Lee Reynolds (profile), Nov 18th, 2010 @ 4:13am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How about you just admit that you either work for the police department, or that at the very least your paycheck comes from the bogus fines they create through these traps. You remind me of the car salesmen who go on auto forums and try to subvert discussions on the true value of vehicles. You're not fooling anyone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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