Saturday, November 18, 2006

Be Careful Who You Flash By Dan Sonderman

Be Careful Who You Flash

By Dan Sonderman

Normally when someone gets pulled over it’s for speeding or other minor violations, not so for one St. Charles County resident. Mike Klos, an auto service technician at Lewis and Clark Career Center, was issued three different tickets from two different police officers. One ticket was from New Melle and two were from the St. Charles County Sheriff’s department, for flashing his high beams.

According to Klos he was with his wife and two children driving home from New Melle northbound on Highway Z, when he saw a motorist with their high beams on. Klos flashed his high beams to alert the other motorist, seconds later he was pulled over. The police officers thought he was warning other drivers of a speed trap. Klos said he tried to explain to the officers he was warning another motorist they had their high beams on, but they didn’t listen.

“I was told that I was illegally flashing my lights to warn other cars of radar,” he said. I attempted to ask about the radar but was told rudely and abruptly to ‘shut up or you’re going to jail’”.

Klos also complained that the officers were rude to his wife and children. One of the officers allegedly said “too bad you are going to miss Halloween with them [his children], since one of Klos’ court dates was on Halloween. “I’m a regular old guy,” Klos said. “Not some punk kid with a smart mouth.”

Klos was issued two citations from New Melle one for unlawful use of high beams and failure to properly display registration tabs on license plates. St. Charles County Sheriff’s Deputy also issued citations, they were later dropped.

When asked if issuing a citation for flashing high beams was excessive Aaron Burkemper, New Melle Chief of Police, said, “not at all, it was up to the discretion of the officer.”

According to the Missouri stature 307.070: Every person driving a motor vehicle equipped with multiple-beam road lighting equipment, during the times when lighted lamps are required, shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, directed high enough and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a safe distance in advance of the vehicle, subject to the following requirements and limitations: Whenever the driver of a vehicle approaches an oncoming vehicle within five hundred feet, or is within three hundred feet to the rear of another vehicle traveling in the same direction.

Darren Marhanka, Professor of Criminal Justice at Lindenwood University, said that it not uncommon to issue a citation for warning other motorists of radar. But it was uncommon for two different jurisdictions to issue the same citation.

“Usually one jurisdiction will defer to the other,” he said. “That is really unusual, I’ve never heard of that.” Before becoming a Professor, Marhanka was a police officer in North St. Louis County for 18 years. Marhanka said he used to write citations for motorists warning of radar.

Klos said he was pulled over approximately two miles outside of New Melle’s jurisdiction. According to Burkemper, if the violation happens within the officer’s jurisdiction, the officer is allowed to follow the suspect for a few miles.

“Sometimes it’s safer to wait until they are outside of jurisdiction to make a stop,” Burkemper said. “Some of the roads out here are not safe to stop on.”

Said Klos, “They do what they want out there [in New Melle] and nobody does anything about it.”

Marhanka has this to add.
“If he was flashing his lights to notify another motorist of potential danger [driver with no lights on] then it would be alright,” he said. “Yes it’s against the law, but if you see a person drowning in the middle of a lake and the lake says no swimming, do you jump in there to save them or do you just let them drown?”