Is honking a horn protected under the First Amendment? The Court just weighed in. I’m Amy E. Feldman.
A group of protesters in San Francisco had the support of Susan Porter, a motorist driving by who honked her horn in 14 short beeps according to the police, who cited her for violating a California law that bans horn honking except to warn of a safety hazard. Ms. Porter sued, claiming her honking was a form of expression that should be protected under the First Amendment.
The police argued that improper use of the horn can startle or distract drivers and that if everyone honks all the time, it will diminish the usefulness of a horn as a warning—a sort of boy who cries road hazard if you will, an analysis with which the appeals court agreed, upholding the law against honking because it’s content neutral—it bans all honking, not just honking in favor of one political viewpoint—so it is legal. Neither the car nor the driver is protected for honking.
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