horn honk02.jpg
While reporting on a story about Seattle police officers ticketing drivers who honked in support of the Occupy Seattle protests , we stumbled upon another

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Helen Immelt, Lady Charged With Incessant Horn-Honking, Has Conviction Overturned by Supreme Court

horn honk02.jpg
While reporting on a story about Seattle police officers ticketing drivers who honked in support of the Occupy Seattle protests, we stumbled upon another case involving a person's right (or lack thereof) to use a car horn as a means to express opinion.

The latter case just wrapped up in Washington's highest court. And the outcome is perhaps not what you might expect.

This particular case involves one Helen Immelt. Immelt had a feud with a neighbor over, of all things, chickens--specifically the keeping of chickens in Immelt's yard, which this neighbor didn't like.

So, like clockwork, Immelt would show up at her neighbor's house early in the morning and lay on her horn as a way of driving her neighbor nuts. Immelt was arrested for the horn-honking and charged with breaking Snohomish County's noise ordinance, but she fought the arrest through two previous levels of court--both of which ruled that horn-honking is not constitutionally protected free speech and her charges should stand

Today, however, the Washington Supreme Court ruled otherwise.

In a majority opinion the state's high court ruled that previous court rulings that defined the woman's horn-honking as unconstitutional were "too broad."

So instead of ruling on whether honking a car horn in support of something--in this case in support of her neighbors losing their minds--is constitutional or not, the court simply ruled that previous rulings were wrong.

We need not decide whether Immelt's particular conduct would constitute protected speech. For purposes of this overbreadth challenge, the ordinance under which Immelt was convicted sweeps too broadly in banning protected forms of expressive conduct involving horn-honking. It therefore fails constitutional scrutiny. We reverse Immelt's conviction.

Those who agree with the supreme court's decision are urged to honk their car horns in support. Those who disagree are urged to do so in protest.

State v Inmelt Opinion

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