"A federal appeals court has upheld a California law that bans honking your car horn—except when reasonably needed to warn of a safety hazard.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco ruled April 7 against Susan Porter, who was cited for honking her horn in support of protesters.

Porter had contended that the law violates the First Amendment because it is a content-based regulation that is not narrowly tailored to address a compelling government interest.

Porter had honked her horn “in three clusters of short beeps, for a total of 14 beeps,” the 9th Circuit said.

The appeals court found no First Amendment violation in a 2-1 decision. Judge Michelle T. Friedland, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote the majority opinion.

The majority said horn honking can carry a message in some circumstances, and the honking law bans some expressive content. But the appeals court said the law draws a line based on the factual situation, rather than the content of the expression, making it a content-neutral law.

The law “does not single out for differential treatment, for example, political honking, ideological honking, celebratory honking or honking to summon a carpool rider,” Friedland wrote. “Instead, the law ‘applies evenhandedly to all who wish to’ use the horn when a safety hazard is not present.”

This article was originally posted in the The ABA Journal

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