Speed traps are a fact of life for drivers pretty much everywhere in the world, but a man in Delaware took police to court after they busted up his attempt to warn drivers about one. A judge ruled in favor of the individual, who stated his constitutional rights were violated in the altercation. And Delaware State Police agreed to a hefty $50,000 payout as a result.
The person in question is 54-year-old Jonathan Guessford, who decided to alert drivers of a speed trap along a stretch of Route 13 near Smyrna, Delaware. According to CBS News, Guessford was standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign that said "radar ahead" when officers approached him. As seen on a video posted to YouTube by Straight Arrow News, officers ripped the sign from Guessford's hand after stating he's "engaged in a First Amendment activity." Officers also allegedly claimed Guessford was entering traffic based on a witness report, which he stated was untrue. But the incident didn't end there.
With the sign torn up, officers let Guessford go but while leaving, the CBS report states he flipped them a middle finger. That prompted the responding officers to chase him down, allegedly reaching speeds of 100 mph on a 55-mph road to catch back up to Guessford, who was presumably driving posted speeds. The officers reportedly threatened to arrest Guessford, impound his vehicle, and call social services to pick up his son. Ultimately, police wrote him a citation for an improper hand signal.
The incident occurred in March 2022. Documents show a lawsuit filed in February 2023, with the verdict for $50,000 coming in favor of Guessford on September 1. Additional video footage from police shows a conversation between a responding officer and a supervisor after the stop, in which the validity of the citation is discussed. The officers concede in this discussion that flipping someone the bird isn't really a charge that can be supported. And they were right, as it was subsequently dropped.
According to The Messenger, the incident led to an internal investigation with some of the officers being disciplined for their actions.