Traffic Stops-1200

Avoiding Traffic Stops – Minnesota Laws

Another year, another truckload of new laws – the usual, right?  How does that affect you, and traffic stops?  For the most part, hopefully it doesn’t.

But when you consider the fact that most criminal law problems – large and small – start as vehicle traffic stops; it pays to be aware of new laws allowing police to stop you.  Some of these went into effect June, July and some August 1, 2009.  All represent an expansion of government power and a reduction of your liberty and freedom.

Liberty lost, in the name of a good cause

 Do you remember several years ago when advocates of another law to mandate seat-belt use upon penalty of a petty misdemeanor fine, reassured us “don’t worry, we will never ask for a primary seat belt law;”  How long is “never,” again?  Not that long, it seems.

It starts with a traffic stop...
It starts with a traffic stop…

Police now can stop you for merely not wearing a Seat-belt in Minnesota.  A “primary violation” seat belt law gives police the legal right to stop a vehicle if someone in the vehicle appears to not wear a seat belt.

The previous version of the seat belt law did not allow traffic stops solely for the appearance of not wearing a seat belt.

This year’s law does.  The law eliminates personal choice, and personal responsibility.  It:

  • hands over more responsibility and power to the government; taking it away from the individual. 
  • reduces the need for people to be responsible for themselves; develop an internal personal moral code. 
  • reduces your freedom. 

As usual, they claim taking your freedom is worth it – for your own good.

More police power endangers the public

The new “primary” seat belt violation law increases the potential for traffic stops and arrests resulting from racial profiling.  Racial profiling is a real problem – difficult to solve.  Though police generally don’t view themselves as racist (few people do), they are no different from the rest of us, and are no more perfect in relation to racial stereotyping and its effects.

We know that when it comes to race, there is a disparate impact upon people identifiable as part of a racial minority group that can only be explained by race.  Creating more opportunities for police to stop people for petty, technical violations inevitably leads a worsening of the racial profiling problem.

Social control by force – by law enforcement – is corrosive to our culture and our youth.  Why learn responsibility as an individual if the government allows you little of it, and controls ever smaller aspects of your life – year after year, law after law?  This seat belt law gives law enforcement yet another reason to pull someone over, and to find another, bigger reason to interfere with your life.

Expansion of Child Seat law

Under the new law, children in a motor vehicle must now be in a child passenger restraint system until their eighth birthday or they reach 4 feet 9 inches tall.  Of course, this is yet another reason for a traffic stop by police if it appears you might be in violation.

Global Positioning Systems on Windshield

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) can now lawfully be mounted or located near the bottom-most part of a vehicle’s windshield.  Previously, anything mounted on the front or rear windshield put the driver at risk of a traffic stop by police.  The “obstructed windshield” statute, used by police to justify such traffic stops, does have some language about obstruction to the drivers view – yet, it gave police the legal excuse to stop someone if there was anything on the windshield, or between the windshield and the driver.  These have included RADAR detectors (otherwise legal), notepads stuck to the windshield, air fresheners or other items hanging from the rear-view mirror, and the like – in addition to GPS units mounted to the windshield.  At least now there is an exception for GPS units mounted to the lowest portion of the windshield.  Presumably in that location, the driver’s view will not be impeded.

What about a RADAR detector?  Prudence might argue for a newer RADAR detector with a GPS unit incorporated in the same unit.  That – or don’t mount it to the windshield.  (See, Speeding Laws in Minnesota for a discussion of MN speed law and defense.)

Tips for Avoiding Traffic Stops

Other than changing your race, age, car, etc., how can you minimize your risk of a traffic stop?  Of course, obeying the traffic laws seems obvious.  But what about all of the technicalities the police can use to either ruin your day, or ruin your life?  Here’s a list of a few:

  1. Avoid placing any decals of any kind on your front or rear windshield, even where instructed to do so by a government agency.  Instead, place them on a side window, where necessary.
  2. Make sure there are no cracks in your windshields.  In winter, make sure they are free of ice and snow.
  3. Avoid hanging items from your rear view mirror, like air fresheners.  Place them below the windshield level.  Avoid hanging anything from sun visors.
  4. Make sure all of your lights, brake lights, turn and lane change indicator lights, as well as license plate illumination light – are all working.
  5. Be sure your vehicle is displaying proper license plate or other registration evidence.
  6. Make sure your vehicle’s suspension, alignment and steering are good enough that your vehicle does not weave.
  7. Avoid tinted glass police may view as illegal.  (And work on changing this law.)
Minimizing police contacts increases public safety
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Given the many overreaching laws already in place, it’s never been more important to prevent police from violating your privacy and liberty interests.  Traffic stops are the narrow end of the wedge the government can drive into you and your life, to hurt or destroy you.  Every police contact creates a risk of a life-altering criminal charge – innocent or not.  Every smart citizen should strive to avoid these police contacts in the first place.

For further information: Author, Thomas Gallagher, Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer.

4 thoughts on “Avoiding Traffic Stops – Minnesota Laws”

  1. Speaking of blocking your vision, I’ve never understood why a handicap tag hanging from the rear view mirror wasn’t enough to warrant being stopped. The tag states right on it not to hang it while driving. Why isn’t that ever enforced? I have no idea if this is specifically covered under a statute or not, or is it just because everyone is so frightened of being sued for discrimination? It should be a valid defense to discriminate based on suspicion of stupidity.

    As for the so called child seat law expansion, more accurately referred to as: racketeering by the makers and marketers of child seats just to further the economic burden on people with children; I refuse as a matter of principal. If I actually thought my child would be safer I would conform, but I don’t and I refuse to force my 7 year old to sit in a car seat. What will be next? Forced use of helmets in a vehicle? Sounds really stupid doesn’t it, but so did forced seat belt use 5 or 10 years ago……..

    1. Police stopping vehicles for something hanging from the rear view mirror – in my experience – happens as a pretext during the times and days people are most likely to have been drinking. Handicap parking tags are not exempt from the abstracted windshield law. Though I have not had a case with that as the reason for stop yet, I have little doubt that it has happened – probably between 10:00 pm on a Friday and 3:00 am on a Sunday.

      I agree the child seat law is bad one. Like me as a child, my kids are quite tall and don’t need a booster seat as long as others do. But the bigger issue is extreme micromanagement of individual lives under the threat of law (implied threat of violence by the government) with the excuse of “your safety.” Freedom means the individual has the right to make the “wrong” choice. Liberty means I can do what I like. Yes, there are reasonable limits on Liberty, but any law telling us that the government knows better than we do what is good for us is per se an unreasonable infringement on individual Liberty. Resisting these laws seems noble to me.

  2. I just got pulled over and i have lettering on my windshield and it is a inch above my rear view mirror and was told it was against the law but GPS units and handicap stickers are not what a law

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