Last October, a police officer stationed at a speed trap along Eldorado Parkway noticed that the westbound drivers passing by weren’t just obeying the speed limit – many of them were waving to him. When two officers drove eastbound, they discovered that a man had set up a “Police Ahead” sign in the middle of the median.
As the officer wrote in the arrest report, Ron Martin “was observed standing in the center median of the six-lane divided roadway…holding a sign in his right hand up over his shoulders.”
When he saw the officers approaching, Martin pulled out his cell phone and recorded the arrest. The officers handcuffed Martin on the spot, accusing him of violating the city’s sign ordinance.
The ordinance specifies that a person holding a sign must be on private property. Martin, who was in the median, has countered that the ordinance doesn’t apply to him because his sign was not advertising anything.
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Frisco police stated that officers had seen Martin holding up signs on at least two previous occasions.
Martin argues that the First Amendment guarantees him the right to warn drivers of the speed trap, also noting that other cities already warn drivers of traffic enforcement.
Martin, 33, has said that he wants people to drive more carefully in his neighborhood, civilians and officers alike. As such, he is not opposed to speed traps; he was expressed the view that “it’s absolutely important for officers to be on the streets and enforce laws.”
He compared his own role, in holding up the sign warning of police presence, to that of the police. “Ultimately,” he said, “we’re trying to do the same exact thing. I just don’t wear a uniform.”
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“I’m the same thing as a speed limit sign, just reminding people that there is a limit here,” he continued.
Martin, who on Wednesday made his first court appearance on the misdemeanor charge, has pleaded not guilty, and has asked for a February 21 trial date in Municipal Court.
The police department has said that it will not address this case publicly until the courts have made an official decision.
A similar case occurred in July of 2012, when Natalie Plummer was arrested in Houston for holding up a paper bag on which she had written the warning “Speed Trap!” Plummer was charged with a misdemeanor for “walking in the roadway where there is a sidewalk present.”
While the case centers around the issue of the sign, Martin says it actually encompasses a much broader issue: freedom of speech.
Sources: khou.com, ABC News
Photo Source: ABC News