legal victory for bear hunt protesters! On Friday, July 27, Judge N. Peter
Conforti of the Sussex County Superior Court reversed the conviction of Laura
Pettinato, a passing motorist who honked her horn in support of the BEAR Group’s
December 10, 2011 protest against the bear hunt on Route 23 in Franklin.
Pettinato represented herself when she was convicted in Franklin
municipal court of violating N.J.S.A. 39:3-69, which prohibits horn honking
except to insure the safe operation of a motor vehicle. At her trial, Pettinato
argued that her horn honking was protected speech and that the statute had been
unconstitutionally enforced against her.
An Open Public Records Act
request filed by the BEAR Group’s Elaine Dunn revealed that in the entire year,
the only tickets issued for horn honking in Franklin were the four issued at the
bear hunt protest.
Legal Affairs for the Bear Group. On appeal, Judge Conforti agreed that in this
case, the enforcement of the statute was unconstitutional and he reversed
Pettinato’s conviction.The BEAR Group will continue speaking out
against cruel, unscientific bear hunts, and will continue fighting for the free
speech rights of the group and our individual supporters.
31, 2012: For Immediate Release
Judge Reverses Conviction of Protest Supporter
N. Peter Conforti of the Sussex County Superior Court reversed the conviction of
a woman who had been convicted of violating the state’s horn honking statute
when she drove past the New Jersey bear hunt protest in December of 2011. Judge
Conforti found that the enforcement of N.J.S.A. 39:3-69 against Laura Pettinato,
who honked in support of protesters, was unconstitutional.Pettinato, of
Vernon, NJ, drove past the Bear Education And Resource Group’s protest against
the black bear hunt on December 10, 2011 on Route 23 in Franklin, NJ, and tooted
in support of the protest. Franklin Boro police officers ticketed Pettinato and
three other individuals for violating the state’s horn honking statute that day.
“When that officer pulled me over, I felt like I was living behind the Iron
Curtain. It wasn’t about the fine. It was the principle of preserving our first
amendment rights. I had to fight it,” said Pettinato. Pettinato was convicted in
Frankling Boro municipal court on April 23, 2012, when she represented herself
and argued that her ticket was unconstitutional.
A review of all traffic
violations issued in Franklin Boro for the year leading up to December 10, 2011
revealed that the only tickets issued for horn honking during the entire year
were the four issued at the bear hunt protest. The statute prohibits horn
honking except “when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation.”
her appeal to the Sussex County Superior Court, Pettinato was represented by
Doris Lin, Esq., Director of Legal Affairs for the Bear Education And Resource
Group. Lin argued that the statute was unconstitutionally enforced and infringed
on Pettinato’s First Amendment rights because the horn honking was protected
Lin states, “The Bear Education And Resource Group will continue
speaking out against New Jersey’s cruel and unscientific bear hunts, so the
First Amendment rights of our group and our individual supporters is essential.
The BEAR Group thanks Judge Conforti for recognizing and protecting the free
speech rights of bear hunt protesters.”