The Maui County law says sign waving too close to roads, crosswalks or intersections can distract drivers and become a hazard so there are space restrictions. But residents say it's not fair that the law is being selectively enforced.
Kevin Olson's sign reads, "MPD spotter van ahead in the Times Super Market parking lot. Be smart." Holding that sign got Kevin Olson a $50 ticket.
He was warning drivers of the white unmarked police van that spots drivers not wearing seat belts or using a mobile device. Then the officer will radio ahead to more officers who ticket them.
Olson knows because he got a $97 ticket for using a camera to take a picture of the spotter van while driving. So the next week when he saw the sting again he held up his warning sign.
"This is just like sharks in a feeding frenzy, pre-typed tickets, taking advantage of the community and trying to get the officers quotas for Maui County," said Kevin Olson, by phone from Kihei. "I'm not trying to get on their bad side. I'm just trying to raise awareness to a community that is trying to feed their kids."
The same officer that ticketed him the week prior came and ticketed him for sign waving too close to the crosswalk, which is against the law. The ordinance states sign waving cannot be within 50 feet of a stop light, 20 feet of a crosswalk, on a median, traffic island, overpass or closer than six feet from the edge of the roadway.
"For them to cite me I think is totally ridiculous," said Olson.
The ACLU is suing Maui County over the sign waving restrictions saying police threatened to ticket demonstrators on Martin Luther King Day of all times. Those people however were not cited.
The ACLU says the law violates freedom of speech. It also says enforcement is inconsistent because Maui Police officers break the law while sign waving with students about speeding or distracted driving.
"They seem to allow some political candidates they seem to allow their own police officers to engage in this sign waving but they pick and choose who else they want to ticket as a result," said Dan Gluck, ACLU Senior Staff Attorney. "It doesn't matter what your message is the county has to treat everybody the same. They are not doing that here."
"I don't think it's fair they can do it and the rest of the community cannot so I fully support the ACLU'S lawsuit absolutely," said Olson.
The ACLU wants the law taken off the books.
Maui County attorneys have started talks with the ACLU although it still hasn't been served with the lawsuit.
"Our Department will review this matter with our Corporation Counsel and hopefully dialogue with the ACLU to find a resolve," said Gary Yabuta, Maui County Chief of Police, in a written statement regarding the lawsuit. "It will always be the mission of the Maui Police Department to protect the People's Constitutional Rights and facilitate public safety as well."
In Olson's case he is fighting both citations and hopes the ticketing isn't a sign of things to come.
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