Is it illegal to warn people about an upcoming radar trap?

Is it illegal to warn people about an upcoming radar trap?

One of my readers brought up an interesting question: Is it illegal to warn people about an upcoming radar trap?  This question was prompted by a situation they heard of where a driver passed police set up at a radar trap and began flashing their high beams at oncoming traffic to warn them.  One of the oncoming vehicles was actually a police cruiser, who made a U-turn, pulled them over and issued a ticket.

So, is it illegal to warn people about an upcoming radar trap?  The answer to this question is, as I have learned in law school, the same as the answer to virtually every legal question: It depends.  There is nothing in the Highway Traffic Act or the associated Regulations which expressly prohibits this.  It would, perhaps, be possible for an officer to argue that it meets the definition of Obstructing Police under s. 129 of the Criminal Code.  There is a case from the BC Court of Appeal (R v Saunders (1971)) where a man was convicted of pointing out to people in the skid row area an undercover officer who was there for the purpose of arresting beggars.  But s. 129 requires that the purpose, not the result of the action be wilful obstruction (see R v. Tortolano, Kelly, and Cadwell (1975) Ont Court of Appeal).  This means that the fact that police are not catching speeders at that location is not enough to sustain a charge, it would be necessary to show that the accused actually had the purpose of preventing them from performing a duty (enforcing the speed limit).  My own opinion is that this is a bit of a stretch, but please don’t take that as approval for doing this.

Why? Because even if you escape criminal liability for warning people of an upcoming radar trap by flashing your high beams, you may still be committing an offence under the Highway Traffic Act.  Not for warning people (as I said, that is not prohibited), but for failing to use you low beams when within 150 meters of an approaching vehicle or 60 meters of a vehicle they are following, as required by s. 168 of the Highway Traffic Act.  Note, however, that this only applies when headlights are required by the Highway Traffic Act, which, as stated in s. 62(1) is from 1/2 hour before sunset to 1/2 hour after sunrise, or at any other time when vehicles are not clearly visible at a distance of 150 meters due to unfavourable light or atmospheric conditions.  This means it does not apply during regular daylight hours.  The fine for this offence is $110.

So, as I said, it depends, but I still wouldn’t advise it.  If you get caught doing this you will likely be facing an irritated police officer who may be able to find some other technical or obscure document or equipment violation you are unwittingly committing.  If they do, don’t expect any leniency!


About the author: Simon Borys is a former police officer who is currently studying law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario to become a criminal lawyer.