Porter v. Martinez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 04-07-2023
  • Case #: 21-55149
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Friesland, C.J.; for the court; Berzon, C.J.; and Korman, D.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Where "expressive" honks are unlawful under Section 27001, the First and Fourteenth Amendment are not violated because Section 27001 blocks all unnecessary honks regardless of their purpose thus making the regulation content-neutral; additionally, Section 27001 passes intermediate scrutiny because the regulation furthers a substantial government interest unrelated to suppression of free expression and the regulation is narrowly tailored to its interest.

Porter (“appellant”) appealed a grant of summary judgement under Section 27001. Appellant drove her car past protesters, honked in support, and was cited for misuse under Section 27001. Appellant challenged Section 27001 of the California Vehicle Code. Section 27001 prohibits honking a vehicle’s horn except when reasonably necessary to warn of a safety hazard. Appellant argued Section 27001 violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it was a content-based regulation that was not narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest. Alternatively, she argued that if the law is not content based, it is a content-neutral regulation that substantially burdens more speech than necessary to protect legitimate government interests. The Court held that Section 27001, does not single out expressive honking by prohibiting unnecessary honking. The court reasoned that Section 27001 passed intermediate scrutiny because it “further[ed] an important or substantial governmental interest” that is “unrelated to the suppression of free expression.” United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968). The court found that traffic safety was a substantial government interest. Further, the court found Section 27001 was narrowly tailored because unnecessary honking dilutes the effectiveness of a horn’s safety purpose, and Section 27001 was not preclusive of other forms of expressive action. AFFIRMED.

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